This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Three years ago all I had was this blog. I was re-entering the workforce, moving into a totally different career path in marketing, and all I really had was this site and my social media accounts. I was terrified. I knew I was smart, I knew I worked hard, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to translate any of this into a real job.
Today it’s hard to believe only three years have passed. These days I’m overwhelmed with freelance and writing projects and while my blog may not be updated as regularly as it was before, I can blog smarter and more efficiently. My traffic is actually up even though my posting is way down! I’ve moved forward on a lot of goals in ways I never expected, but where I’ve seen the most success is the way I’ve used my blog knowledge for professional achievement. I now have a full-time job where I am the expert on bloggers, how they work, and how best to work with them. I consult with hundreds of companies of all kinds, as well as helping hundreds of bloggers increase their site income. In those three years I’ve spoken at 14 conferences (2 more coming before 2016 is over) to audiences of would-be bloggers, experienced bloggers, and PR/Marketing professionals.
Clearly a lot has happened.
But all my steps forward, both blogging and professional, really come down to the years of work I put into this blog. And that’s what I want to write about today: how you can gain knowledge from your blog to achieve your goals. It doesn’t matter whether those goals are increasing traffic or getting more paid campaigns, getting a job running a brand’s social media, getting a job in-house or with an agency in marketing, or starting a whole new business.
So here’s my advice on how you can use your blog to be successful, regardless of how you define success.
This Is Your Industry. Act Like It.
If you want to blog seriously (or work in some kind of Marketing or PR through your blog experience) then you’ve made a career choice. If you chose to be a lawyer or a teacher, you’d have a set of industry standards to meet. You’d have professional groups, you’d have continuing training, you’d keep up with developments and changes that affect your job. As a blogger, you need to do the same thing.
This is mostly a question of attitude and it’s the most important piece of advice I can give you. I work with people in Marketing every day who don’t actually know what’s happening in their line of work. They don’t stay abreast of changes in technology or changes in legal requirements. They don’t perform effectively and they don’t make good partners.
To succeed you need to treat blogging/social media generally like your industry. So what do you do? Here’s a few:
- Network. Conferences are great for this, but so are local meetup groups. If you don’t have one, find one. If you can’t find one, build one.
- Build Your Inner Circle. Having a brain trust has helped me a ton. I have a wide area of practice, so I tend to have a few people with different specialties that I reach out to when I have questions or want to talk about something. They can ask you questions in your expertise in return. It’s a great way to help each other professionally without having to ask someone you don’t know well if you can “pick their brain.” In the blogging world, the Mastermind Group is becoming a lot more common as people find they can put their heads together with some trusted friends to learn a lot together.
- Pay Attention. I mostly use Twitter to keep up on industry news. I’ve found that in this area it’s particularly hard to find good information because everyone is so desperate to share their expertise. If I read a good article on digital marketing, I try to find the author on Twitter and follow them. If I read something that’s misguided or outdated, I make sure I’m not following them or unfollow. It takes some curation, and it takes some time, and it may take some advice from your inner circle on who they follow. Read widely if you can, because you may find someone’s advice sounds amazing only to learn from someone else that it’s not actually useful in practice.
- Follow the Rules. Know the rules, follow them. Know the difference between a sweepstakes and a giveaway. Know FTC and Google definitions of compensation. Don’t work with brands that ask you to break the rules. Don’t ask to move your disclosure to the bottom of a post when the brand says it goes at the top of a post. When a brand sends post instructions, follow them. All of them. Read them before you agree. Read them while you work. Read them again before you push publish.
Always Be Professional
Straight talk, y’all. I cannot tell you how often a blogger does something unprofessional and makes my job 100 times harder. Sometimes it’s just carelessness, sometimes it’s a lack of respect, sometimes I can’t figure it out at all. But here’s the thing. You are working with people who have day jobs. They are in offices. They are checking email regularly. They are keeping spreadsheets. If you commit to a post date, you need to do it. If your kid is sick, you still do it. If your friend is having a crisis, you still do it. Not doing it requires serious emergencies. (People in the hospital, natural disasters, etc.) This is how business works, and if you’re going to make money and build relationships, this is how you need to work. If you aren’t able to commit to a timeline, then don’t take the campaign. Period.
Yes, we have blacklists.
I know sometimes it’s tempting to respond to a bad email from a PR person with a snarky response or tweet. Avoid it if you can. Not everyone has budget. Some campaigns are just a bunch of people sending email blasts hoping for someone to nibble. Even huge brands may not have any control over the budget they’ve been given.
When you can, build personal relationships with PR reps at events. The vast majority of my work through agencies came from contacts I’d met in person and gotten to know.
When you decide to pitch back, be polite. Maybe the person who reached out to you is in a department that didn’t get any budget for influencer marketing. Maybe they already have a list of people they work with and they’re not adding to it. Maybe they love you and would love to work with you but won’t have any budget until next year. Be polite and easy to work with, and if the opportunity is there you’re much more likely to get it even if it doesn’t happen right away.
Know the Numbers
There’s two pieces to this one. First, you need to know YOUR numbers. I talk to a lot of people who don’t know how to use their analytics. But almost every really successful blogger I talk to knows their numbers and how to sell themselves based on those numbers. You don’t need to be a kung fu master to check your analytics and get the basic information. There are plenty of posts with information on reading your Analytics and honestly, I check only a handful of stats regularly. Just know what’s important to you and keep track of it.
The thing about data is that it’s the key to doing better. When you know what’s working and what’s not, you can learn how to improve.
The second piece is to remember that your numbers are just one part of a much bigger landscape. When you send someone a media kit or a URL, they’re going to start placing you in categories in their head. What’s your content? What’s your reach? What’s your engagement? It’s not just that they’re looking at those things, but they’re comparing you to others. If you’re a Fashion writer and you want to work with a Tech brand, if you can pull some data showing your readers are the right demographic, have the brand’s target income level, and have responded well to tech-focused content in the past, you’re way more likely to get that campaign.
I talk to bloggers who sell me on their sites as if they’re literally the only blog in the world. But these days, if I think you charge too much, I can find 5 other sites similar to yours to work with instead with just a few clicks. It’s a big market, and when you’re talking about your site you need to understand where you fit in that market. Why should I pick you and not those 5 cheaper bloggers whose numbers are just as good or better than yours?
Having some flexibility with your rates can open up so many doors, I can’t even tell you.
What Defines Success?
This is a question for you and for brands you may work with. All kinds of campaigns have different goals. Do some reading on “the funnel” and figure out the difference between campaigns built around brand awareness, social lift and engagement, finding new customers (aka “new to file”), and conversion. Building your coverage around the brand’s goals helps you create a more successful post, which also helps you build your relationship with the brand.
Don’t cheat the system, either. I know about your Facebook groups where you ask bloggers to leave comments or click links to make your numbers look better. I can spot it from a mile away. Don’t do that. Earn success by doing a good job. And if you’ve been given a campaign with goals you don’t think you can meet, say so up front. Let them know your strength is less conversion and more creating great images and perhaps you can talk about a rate that includes not only your post but also the rights to use your images in their marketing materials instead.
Want to Be an Expert? Okay! Do It!
The thing about being an expert is that it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it. If you want to start speaking, write a book, or start an e-course the only person you need to ask for permission is yourself.
The biggest choice is whether to keep everything on your current site or build a new one. I’ve been able to mostly leverage my job to show my expertise, but I’m definitely thinking about this one as I consider doing more speaking and writing. Setting up a new site can be great for your CV, since you can link to that site generally instead of your blog which may be more likely to have a “cute” title.
If you decide to start a separate site, the first question is always the URL. Starting a new site is super exciting because you haven’t made any mistakes yet! You can fix all the settings you set up in your blog that are too late to change! You can take the dates out of your post URL’s! You can get a really nice theme you’re able to customize without a developer! You can find a domain that has actually useful SEO keywords!
And this is the part where I’m glad to be partnering with Domain.ME. If you’re building a site to own your personal expertise, whether it’s to share your writing clips, a photography portfolio, speaking videos, or a blog showcasing your expertise, a .ME domain name will give you more options with a short, simple, and memorable URL. If you want your name to be the URL, it’s an even better fit. JessicaWoodbury.com isn’t available and hasn’t been for a while, but JessicaWoodbury.ME is, and looks a lot more straightforward on a business card than domains with longer extensions.
Having your name as your URL is great when you expect people to google you to check you out. Send them to your customized site with everything you want them to see. And some links from your site and other sites you contribute to can help give it an SEO boost as well. (Your URL is a big part of what Google uses in deciding search results and .me has the same value as a .com.)
If you’re interested in a .ME domain, you can purchase it through your current host or a registrar like GoDaddy or Google Domains.
I hope this advice is useful for y’all. I found that if a blogger is thoughtful, driven, and produces quality work, then numbers don’t have to be an impediment to working with big brands or making more money on campaigns. You don’t have to have the biggest blog on the block to be an expert, to grow your own business, or to move into the marketing workforce like me.
Thanks to Domain.ME for sponsoring this post! Sponsors help keep the blog running and I appreciate their partnership.