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Frank Warren from PostSecret Shares His Blog’s Tipping Point

200805161525.jpgIn this post Frank Warren from PostSecret answers my question – ‘when was the Tipping Point of your blog?’

My story might be a little different because my blog is dependant upon anonymous users mailing me silly, sexual or shocking secrets on postcards.

The tipping point for my project/blog came when I stopped passing out the postcards I had used to seed the project – and secrets continued to arrive in my mailbox. Somehow the idea of PostSecret spread virally in the real world and strangers began to buy and make their own postcards and mail them in from around the world.

Today, I get about 1,000 postcards a week. The project has a life of it’s own and I don’t think I could quit even if I wanted to. . .which is a good thing, because like most successful bloggers, I am passionate about my blog and continue to be fascinated by the soulful secrets that find their way to me.

Making Money from 2nd and 3rd clicks with the Amazon Affiliate Progam

Yesterday Jeremy Shoemoney Twittered to tell me that the review that he wrote of the ProBlogger book generated 38 sales of the book through his Amazon affiliate link. He went on to say that he made money money from the other things that people then went on to buy after clicking through on the link.

The great thing about the Amazon affiliate program is that you not only make commissions on the item that you link to from your blog but any item that your referred reader might buy after clicking your link.

I wrote about this previously in a post on The Power of Getting People In the Door at Amazon where I showed an example of when I linked to a photography book in a review on DPS. That one link generated over 160 sales – 100 of which were not items that I linked to in the review. Together those items were worth around $500.

This is my experience over and over again. The money in using the Amazon Affiliate program often doesn’t come from that first click – but the 2nd, 3rd (etc) ones once people are in the door at Amazon.

Related Reading on Amazon Affiliate program:

Finding Profitability – The Tipping Point for Expansion

In response to my question – “tell us about your blog’s ‘tipping point’” Collis Ta’eed from PSDTUTS and (Freelance Switch) responded with the following comprehensive guest post.

PSDTUTS.pngYears ago when I had more time to spare, one of my favourite pastimes was to play computer games. In particular, I rather liked those real-time strategy games like Warcraft and Starcraft, which brought hours of enjoyment, to the decline of my studies and chagrin of my girlfriend of the time.

I’ve not had the time to play one of those games recently, but now and again I do think about them, and how they relate to blogging and business. In particular they are useful for looking at the tipping point for a blog that I run called PSDTUTS, and how it went from small site to expanding little business.

Strategy Games

So in case you’ve not had the great pleasure to play one a real-time strategy game, let me outline roughly what happens in them. Generally you begin every round with a starting set of resources like gold and timber, and a few little guys to do your bidding. It’s your job to build a base by constructing buildings with your gold, use the buildings to train more guys and use the guys to harvest resources so you can then build more, train more, and so on.

Now the trick to these games is that you need to balance your growth and expansion if you want to be successful. You have to use your resources wisely and make your base self-sufficient, as your initial resources will run out quickly and you’ll be left floundering.

So what’s this got to do with blogging?

PSDTUTS

In September last year, I started a Photoshop tutorial blog called PSDTUTS where we post comprehensive tutorials and general articles about Photoshop. My early tutorials brought lots of traffic because they were longer and more in-depth than anyone else was really writing at the time, so the site stood out. But because I work on lots of projects, I have only a limited amount of time and could only put together one tutorial each week. And while the traffic was good, there wasn’t much income from the site. From memory it was just under a thousand a month from Adsense, some affiliate links and some text-link-ads I was selling.

So in many ways, it was kind of like being in one of those strategy games I mentioned earlier. I had a little base, with a few posts going up a month, some resources coming in, and one guy to do my bidding – me! While not a bad situation to be in, I wanted to expand.

So I started spending what little income I had, and hired a tutorial writer. I also offered cash for contributions that we published and started accepting community contributions. After a few months of this we’d gotten to publishing two, and sometimes three tutorials a week, and correspondingly income had gone up. Unfortunately, so had costs. Because PSDTUTS is and has always been popular, hosting all those masses of big images on every tutorial meant that I was serving up over a terabyte of data every month. Plus our tutorial writers cost money, because if you want the best content, you have to pay for it. And the more time I spent on the blog, the more I thought that I should be accounting for my own time in the accounts.

This status quo lasted for another three months. The site grew, but slowly. I was tied down to it, having to keep up my own work on the site. And though it wasn’t really losing (much) money, it certainly was not profitable. Without profits, there wasn’t really any way to expand, and so I was stuck.

So the question was how to harvest more resources. In strategy games, there are usually some key buildings that you need to build, that allow you to get more out of what you’ve already got. This was important because it was clear that if I simply hired more writers, built more sites, stuck more ads in, or a host of other expansion ideas, I wouldn’t really be getting anywhere.

The Tipping Point

In the end it was an idea that I’d shelved because it was too hard that made the difference. Where previously we’d been giving away the source Photoshop (PSD) file, then selling them individually, now we built a paid membership system. The system, which we call PSDTUTS Plus costs people $9 a month to join. For that they get to download the source files and we put up periodic extra tutorials that only they get to read. It’s built using aMember and WordPress, and took me a good two weeks to put together initially.

It took a little while of saving and a bunch of work to get the system up and running. But as all players of strategy games know, this is often the case in building a pivotal part of your base. And as in strategy games, it paid off when a few hundred loyal readers joined! Sure there is extra work now, because it’s really important that these readers get value for their money, but the tradeoff is extremely positive.

So all of a sudden the site went from break even, to profitability. So what to do next?

Expand, expand, expand!

The smart thing to do here would probably have been to not do too much, and build up some cash reserves. But where’s the fun and excitement in that? And besides, it wouldn’t really be a tipping point, if all I did was collect money. As we know from strategy games, there’s only one thing you can do when your resources have grown – build more!

So in the months since, I’ve hired an editor, commissioned some celebrity writers, expanded the posting schedule, and a few weeks ago built the first sister site at NETTUTS (http://nettuts.com). And as these new expansions increase revenue, we can expand more, train more, and harvest more resources.

What’s the lesson here?

Well aside from learning that playing Warcraft wasn’t a waste of time after all, I suppose you could say that thinking strategically about your blog is important if you want to build a business with it. Look carefully at what you are spending versus what you are getting back. Think long term and don’t be afraid to spend money along the way – so long as it’s wisely spent. And good luck!

Read how other Pro Bloggers answered the question about their blog’s Tipping Points at:

Which Social Bookmarking Site Would You Prefer to Hit the Front Page Of?

Here’s a question that might provoke some interesting discussion over the weekend:

Which Social Bookmarking Site Would You Prefer to Hit the Front Page Of?

Would you prefer to hit the popular page on Digg, hit StumbleUpon’s buzz page, make it big on Delicious, Mixx or Reddit or is there some other social bookmarking page that you’d rather do well on?

Also – WHY did you choose the one you’ve chosen? Is it just about the raw numbers of readers, that it leads to secondary links, that it’s more focused and brings a higher quality of reader?

Now it’s over to you for your say….

Amazon Associates Introduce MP3 Clips Widget

If you have a blog with a music focus the Amazon Associates program have today announced a widget that you’ll want to check out – it’s an MP3 Clips Widget that lets your readers listen to clips of music live on your site.

You can hand select songs to be included on the widget or pick categories of songs. Any sales generated by the widget earn you 10% of the sale as an associate. Just be aware that only those in the US can buy music from Amazon (or at least they seem to need a US credit card). All of your readers will be able to see the widget – just not actually convert with a sale of an MP3.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a go!

Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself

“When Should You Give Up On a Blog?” – question from the Q&A sidebar widget.

While they won’t all apply to every blog – here’s a list of questions to consider when working out whether you should give up on a blog.

  1. What goals do I have for this blog? Are they being met? Am I getting closer to meeting them?
  2. Am I Interested in the Topic?
  3. Am I getting personal satisfaction from posting?
  4. How Many Posts Did I write in the Last Month?
  5. Do I have time to keep the blog running?
  6. Is anyone reading my blog?
  7. Have I given it enough time?
  8. Do I still see myself writing on this blog in 18 months time?
  9. Is the niche growing or dying?
  10. Is the blog earning anything?
  11. Is the blog growing my profile and perceived expertise?
  12. Are there any other benefits from this blog?
  13. Is the blog giving energy to or taking energy away from me?
  14. Is the Blog’s traffic and income growing or shrinking?
  15. Are readers engaging with the content?
  16. If readers are commenting – what are they saying?
  17. What are other bloggers writing about my blog?
  18. Do I have anything original and useful to say on my topic?
  19. What else could I do with the time that I spend on this blog
  20. What would the impact be of me not blogging? (on readers and me)

Brian Clark Shares His Blog’s Tipping Point

Today Brian Clark from CopyBlogger shares his Blog’s Tipping Point

I think the tipping point for Copyblogger was the beginning of 2007. I had a good first year, attracting 10,000 subscribers, and as the new year began I decided I wanted Copyblogger to be one of the top blogs.

That hadn’t been my initial goal; I had just wanted to join in and let people know what I could do for other projects. But then I thought, “If you want to be viewed as an expert at social media and content marketing, what better proof than by growing the blog bigger right out in front of everyone?”

In 2007 Copyblogger tripled in traffic and subscribers, and it was all because I changed my mindset and decided to just do it. It was a lot of fun, and it demonstrates that more than half the battle goes on inside our own heads.

YouTube Add ‘Insight’ Video Metrics

Google today announced that it has launched YouTube Insight – a tool for giving insight into who is watching your videos.

So today I logged into YouTube to see what information I could glean about the viewers of my videos. from the new stats. Here’s what I learned about who is watching my videos:

Across my Channel they are predominately male (64%) and in the 45-55 year old bracket (36%):

Youtube-Demographics

Of Male viewers – the biggest group is actually aged 35-45.

Youtube-Demographics-1

Of the Female audience the largest group is 45-55.

Youtube-Demographics-2

Viewers are predominantly in the USA. Smaller audiences are in Canada, Australia, and India.

Youtube-Demographics-3

5 Emerging Trends in Blogging

Over in the question widget on my sidebar I was asked to comment on the future of blogging and where I see it heading.

In this video post I explore 5 trends that have been emerging (and that I think we’ll see continue to grow) including:

  • Multiple Author Blogs
  • Multi-Topic Blogs
  • Blogs Converging with Other Types of Sites
  • Portal-Like Design
  • Indirect Monetization

I should say though that I’m NOT saying that a blog can’t work when a blog doesn’t have these things. Blogs of all shapes and sizes will continue to have success.

You can watch a full size version of this video here.