Disclosure: 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.
Yep, that title is a bit misleading. To be completely honest, this is NOT about making millions of dollars through a blog. If you do, and this article was one of your sources of inspiration, I would love a shout out! But actually, you CAN achieve millions through blogging. It just depends on your perspective. I have actually reached it – millions of sessions, users and page views. According to my Google Analytics account, since March 2009 (which wasn’t even when I started my blog), I have had 4.5 million sessions, 4.1 million users visit, and 5.4 million page views. That’s a lot of millions! Here are a few points to potentially get you down that path towards “millions.”
When I first started out with my blog back in November 2005, I had no idea what direction it would go, whether it would be successful or not, or if I would just scrap it after a few months. It’s now over a decade later and my site has become part of who I am, my personal brand, and has opened a variety of doors for me along my personal and professional career. It has almost become an addiction.
Hindsight is always amazing. I probably could have done things a lot differently along the way. I potentially could have been making millions of dollars if I had made different decisions along the way. But I really didn’t have a goal originally of doing that. Honestly, I started because I wanted to review gadgets and consumer electronics. It was pretty selfish and since I didn’t have the funds to buy each and every gadget that came out, I had to get a bit “creative” to find a way to do so.
But as I was writing about tech, my wife and I were also raising three girls. And I suddenly realized there was a niche that nobody was really talking about: technology within the family. So that is where I decided I could and would hang my hat and hopefully be a positive influence.
I adopted the tag-line: where technology and fatherhood collide. It IS a collision. And tech and parenting and children do not often go hand-in-hand. Trust me.
So I adopted that niche and just started writing about tech, consumer electronics, cars, social media, business tips, cloud computing (as it was relevant to a job I had), work advice, parenting and a bunch of other things. With every review and almost with every article, I take the perspective of a parent. My articles often talk about how technology is or is not relevant to the family or home environment. Or how a car’s features are liked or not by me as a dad or by my wife and kids as passengers, or how to have conversations with your children about social media or bullying, or how to replace a battery on your child’s iPhone.
Fast forward to present day and my site is still chugging along, averaging around 80-90,000 pageviews per month. I can’t complain at all. Am I successful? Well, I feel pretty happy with the results. I have been interviewed live on TV, appeared in articles, been invited on trips, reviewed a ton of products and services (all with full disclosure, of course), worked with some wonderful brands, even got a tech make-over for my living room, and have a great set of followers.
So yes, I feel I do have some of the credentials and authority to offer potential or current bloggers some tips on how to be successful. But as I often state in my opinion pieces, these are just my ideas. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. Most importantly though, make ‘em yours! Evolve them and better them.
Tips for (Potential) Bloggers
Again, there are plenty of other bloggers out there who have “made it” and are a lot more impressive than I am or ever will be. Be sure to read their advice. However, what I would like to do is offer some tips of things that I have learned over the years as well as some items that I wish I had known a long time ago when I was just starting out. I guess I’m sort of being like a parent here – with age and experience, one can offer advice (my kids often think it is unsolicited advice but that is another story).
Anyway, these are in no particular order or rank. And if you have any questions about any of these tips, or want to offer other tips or advice of your own, please leave it in the comments! Discussion is important.
Start yesterday – If you are thinking about starting a blog, do it! Don’t wait until you have things figured out. You might not ever figure it out. It’s much like becoming parent – you have no clue as to what direction things will take, only a general idea of what you might expect. But if you wait, you might not experience the joy (and pain) involved in the process.
Pick a niche – This is often difficult. And it doesn’t always present itself clearly initially. It took me quite a while to figure out my niche. And it is still evolving. And, I’m even able to use things I learn on HighTechDad.com as a business owner and entrepreneur that I use in my professional career. But I do advise to not be super general. Be specific. Find something that you are passionate about that you could talk or write about endlessly. Hobbies are a perfect place to start. If you pick something that is too difficult, it will be even more difficult down the road creating content and conversations. Of course, if your hobby or passion is something really complicated, that might be a perfect topic to explain and explore through writing or other digital content.
Think about your personal brand – I believe a personal brand is important. It is a way to differentiate yourself. But it is not for everybody. If you are a very private person, you might not want to expose everything to the public. But you can create a “personal” brand that is your online and public persona, and it can be quite different from who you are privately. I know plenty of bloggers who are completely opposite of this – they expose pretty much every detail of their lives. It really boils down to what you are comfortable with. I sort of took the middle road. There are things I discuss openly and other things that only my close friends and family know about. But along the way, I have built the concept of the “HighTechDad” brand. Heck, I even registered HighTechDads.com (plural) because I had a vision of creating a community of fathers like me. I never had time to pursue that unfortunately.
Keep it simple – Ok, that is very generic and can be applied across the board. But it goes hand-in-hand with developing your brand and niche. Unless you really want to be complex and that is who you are, I would recommend keeping things as simple as you can. Register a personal domain name but keep it short so that people can easily remember it (like a .ME domain perhaps – ahem – they sponsored this article, btw). You may even want to have different permutations of the domain just in case. If you can, create a logo that encapsulates your brand or niche. But don’t make it overly complex. And in terms of your niche, that too should be relatively easy to explain. There is a reason why people say “give me the elevator pitch.” For your own personal brand and blog, you need to be able to pitch it in just 30 seconds.
Use your network – You should be doing this at the beginning and on-going. First, start by talking to friends and family about your idea for a blog. Be open to feedback. You can then expand to other networks on social media, perhaps. You may want to be private about it however, especially if you think your idea will take off. Once you have launched your personal brand or blog, get it back out to your personal and social networks. If possible, get people to share or provide feedback to you. As you engage socially, those networks will grow and can be extremely powerful later on. As you continue to blog and publish content, socialization and engagement will be critical to reaching those “millions.”
Monetization takes time – Don’t expect to become rich overnight from your blog, unless you strike oil somehow. It is difficult to monetize your site immediately. You can sign up for services like Google Adsense quite easily, but unless you have huge amounts of pageviews, you may only see pennies a day…if that. You can sign up for affiliate programs where you get a portion of any sale of a product or service listed on your site. But those take time as well. A person has to purchase it and the purchase has to be tracked back to having come from your site and there is typically a waiting period as well. Personally, I haven’t been that successful with affiliate program in the past, so while I do run some, I don’t put as much effort into them as other people do. There are some sites that are amazing at affiliate programs and they can make a lot of money monthly. If you are considering videos as part of your content offering (which I believe you should), you can monetize those as well. For me, I elected to focus more on the content and less on the monetization.
Consistency is key – Once you figure out your brand and your message, be consistent with it. If you have multiple properties (e.g., site, social media, image/video sites, etc.) try to have your brand represented in a consistent manner throughout. There is nothing worse than seeing and experiencing disjointed properties. And it hurts your personal brand.
Think about the content – Well, this should be obvious. I love writing. I can write thousands of words without thinking about it. I’m literally the Costco of words at time. But it is important to stay on message and, as I have said, stick to your niche. If your writing floats in and out of your defined niche all of the time, you will confuse your audience. Occasional deviations are ok but if you can, always try to relate it back. For my niche, I have found that Tips, Tricks, DIY and How To articles perform amazingly well. And they are often evergreen, meaning that over time, their traffic will grow. Here’s a hint, if you can write a How-To article about something really new or really “hot” and get it out before everybody else does (essentially a scoop), your article should perform quite well. As you write, think about optimizing around a keyword or phrase. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The best way to do this is to think about what you would naturally search for in a search engine to find your article.
Be patient – Unless you just discovered a new way to harness energy from water, it will most likely take a while for your blog to gain traction. It may be days, weeks, months or even years till you hit levels where your site has become established. Once you have set traffic, repeat visitors, and you can see patterns that aren’t just tied to when articles are posted, you can probably think about advertising, affiliates, and even sponsorships. I didn’t start getting approached by companies, brands and agencies to review products or have experiences with them for many, many years. Even now, there are times where I have to reach out and pitch myself and my site. And being patient goes hand-in-hand with the next point…
Be persistent – There is nothing worse than a stale blog. People (and search engines) crave freshness. Even if you don’t publish every days, you should try to stick somewhat to a schedule and a regular cadence. Trust me though, I know, life gets in the way. For me, there may be a week or two where I don’t publish anything and other weeks where I publish 2-3 articles. And I know some sites that post daily or at least on a schedule. Just don’t go too long without doing something.
Provide value – Don’t just talk about fluff or content without substance just to post something. There was a time when this was ok, especially if you were trying to game the SEO system and push keywords and keyword phrases. You can easily tell those types of articles. After reading them, you feel a bit empty inside. Do try to provide value and help people in the process.
Evolve over time – As you work down the path toward making those “millions” (of dollars, users, page views, etc.), remember to avoid being stagnant. Things evolve and (hopefully) get better over time. Sure technology gets complicated and content strategies evolve from concepts like short-form to long-form to video to images to encompassing everything. You should look to adapt to ways you are comfortable with. But you definitely should evolve. Your messages should naturally become more mature as you go. Your site and branding should go from a rough focus to a much more fine-tuned presence. If you are passionate about what you do, this will most likely come naturally. Go with it!
Ok, if you made it this far, either what I have written is really helpful or you desperately want to be successful launching or growing your blog. Perhaps it is both. I know I could probably write another thousand words on this and perhaps I will in the future.
If you do have any questions about what you have read, or if you have suggestions for other bloggers (or for me), please leave a comment on this article.
And I do want to thank Domain.ME for not only sponsoring this article, but also providing me with the inspiration to actually write it. Having a personal domain makes your personal brand more memorable. In fact, over a million people and businesses, especially startups, use a .ME domain to make their brand stand out a bit more. Who knows, I might actually grab one for HighTechDad soon!
Disclosure: 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 within this article, unless otherwise noted, are my own and are not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found in my About page.
HTD says: Creating your personal brand through blogging takes time and effort…a lot of it! The best thing you can do is start early and do it consistently. You may find it becomes quite addictive. I have!