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How 24 Hours of Work Will Send Millions of Readers to My Blog

I have written numerous times about how I use weekly email newsletters to drive significant traffic to my photography site (here’s why newsletters are good and here’s how to use newsletters).

However lately I have started using a second type of newsletter that in time has the potential to send even more traffic. In fact initial testing shows me that it’ll literally send millions of readers over time.

The way I use my normal weekly newsletters is to send an email to my list every Thursday that updates them on the latest posts on the blog and ‘hot threads of conversation’ in the forum.

The second type of newsletter (I’ll call it a ‘special feature‘ newsletter from now on) is quite different.

The idea behind this ‘special feature’ type of newsletter is that it is much more automated than the weekly emails that I send. It takes a little work to set it up – but once you’ve done that you just sit back and watch it do it’s ‘magic’.

Here’s how it works. There are two ways that these special feature emails are different from the weekly updates that I send.

1. The first difference is Topic

These newsletters are not updates of new posts on the blog – but they are much more focused upon a ‘theme’ and point readers to old posts in our archives.

For example – the first of these newsletters focused upon the theme of ‘portrait photography’ (you can view what it is like here). In it I pointed readers to 18 of our best portrait photography posts from the last two years on the blog. I also pointed people to the portrait section of our forum as well as some recommended reading (books) at Amazon. There’s also a ‘recommend to a friend’ invitation – interestingly I have seen it’s been used a few times already).

You can see a what my newsletter looks like here (click to enlarge):

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The idea behind this email is that it brings alive our archives – which are often hidden to new readers of the blog.

2. The second difference is HOW I send the Emails

OK – the real magic of these special feature emails is not the content – but the way that the emails are sent. While weekly emails go out to my list all at once and the benefits from them dies off after a day or two – these special feature emails just keep on giving and giving for months and even years to come. Here’s how:

I use Aweber to send my emails (here’s why I use Aweber). Aweber gives you the ability to send a variety of types of emails. I use their ‘broadcast’ type email for my weekly updates – but for these special feature newsletters I use the ‘autoresponder’ (Aweber also call it a ‘Follow Up’ email) type of email.

Note: Other bloggers that I respect use Get Response to deliver their emails – I’m yet to use it but by all reports it is a feature rich and very reliable option.

An autoresponder is a tool that allows you to send out emails at certain predetermined intervals to people on your list. Let me explain by going back to my portrait photography example:

I set my email not to go out immediately to my list – but for it to go out 2 weeks after subscribers sign up to receive newsletters. This means that if you sign up for my photography newsletter today – that you’ll get the portrait tips newsletter in 14 days time. It also means that anyone who has signed up for my newsletter at any point in the past before 14 days ago got the email immediately.

What this means is that everyone on my list gets the email – but unlike my weekly newsletters which only go out to anyone currently signed up – these special feature newsletters go out to anyone that signs up for my newsletter at any point in the future.

As I’m getting 300 new signups to my newsletter a day at present – this means that my portraits newsletter goes out to my 57,000 current subscribers but will go out to the 110,000 subscribers who sign up in the next 12 months (300 a day)… and hundreds of thousands of others in the years that follow.

The initial tracking that I’ve done is that 86% of those who get these emails are opening them and clicking on at least one link.

But Wait There’s More – Here’s How to Extend the Idea

OK – so I’ve set up this portraits newsletter and the 2 hours that it took me to build it are going to pay off for years to come. But how can I extend this idea further?

My plan is to develop a new special feature newsletter every month. So 30 days after readers receive their Portrait Photography special feature they’ll receive another one – on Travel Photography. 30 days after they get the travel photography one they’ll get one on Exposure/Settings, 30 days later they’ll get one on Composition….. etc

Over a year I’ll have 12 special feature newsletters in place.

Do the sums on this and when they are all in place the amount of people getting special feature emails on a daily basis will be 3600. Add to this the current 57,000 people on my list and over the next few years millions of people will get these newsletters.

If I can achieve the 86% open rate with them – that’ll drive millions of visitors to the blog and forum.

I’d estimate that each of these emails will take me 2 hours to put together – so 12 of them will take me 24 hours. Considering that they’ll continue to drive traffic to the site for years to come – I’d say that this is a pretty good use of time.

Of course this is not just about driving traffic to the blog – it’s also about giving readers value and a service (which builds loyalty and brand) as well as promoting affiliate products in the newsletters (and I could potentially sell advertising in them also). I think this type of newsletter has real potential with affiliate programs as each newsletter is focused upon a single topic and if you can match a good product with that topic in terms of relevancy I suspect conversion will be quite good.

Note: of course the results I’m getting with these newsletters have been the result of me building up a blog for 2 years. I already have a large list of subscribers and a lot of traffic coming to the blog. However the same principles can be applied to a blog with smaller traffic also. If you can sign up 10 new people to your list every day and have 12 monthly newsletters in place – at the end of the year you’ll have a list of 3650 and you’ll be sending out tens of thousands of emails a year.

The key is to start building and communicating with a newsletter list now.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

Every now and again I get an email from a ProBlogger reader excitedly telling me that they’re about quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. More often than not they are new bloggers who for one reason or another have it in their minds that blogging for money is a quick and easy thing to do.

This post is yet another attempt (I’ve done this 2-3 times a year since 2004) to help bloggers thinking about blogging for money to get a realistic picture of what is possible.

I always struggle a little with responding to these emails. On the one hand I love the enthusiasm that new bloggers often have and don’t want to be responsible for squashing it and leaving them despondent.

Blogging is an exciting medium, it is filled with many possibilities (one of which is profit), it is a lot of fun and it is possible to make a full time living from doing it. In fact it’s possible to go beyond making a living from blogging – (stories like this one about a 1 man blog being sold for $15 million illustrate this).

HOWEVER…..

The reality is that most bloggers never sell their blog for millions…. in fact most bloggers don’t even come close to a full time living from blogging. Every time I’ve surveyed my readers on how much they earn the majority report that they’re earning less than $100 a month with most of those earning less than $10 a month.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

The simple answer to this question is – yes.

It is possible to make money blogging. In fact it’s quite likely that if you try to make money blogging and stick with it for the long haul that you will make at least some money blogging – however ‘some’ money is different to ‘much’ money.

Can you Make MUCH Money Blogging?

Again – the simple answer is yes. You can make a lot of money blogging. The example of the $15m blogger above is one example. My own experience is less spectacular but is another story of a blogger making a good living from the medium (I’ve been earning well into the ‘six figures’ range for a number of years now.

It is possible – but every statistic I’ve ever read shows that it’s not likely, at least for the majority of bloggers, to make ALOT of money blogging.

As mentioned above – I’ve surveyed my readers a number of times on their earnings. One of these surveys was back in May 2006 (I did one with very similar results in November 2007 and things seem similar in the current poll I’m running on this same topic) where I found that my readers were earning a large spread of income levels from blogging:

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While 7% reported earning over $15,000 a month (I suspect this is a little inflated – some people tend to pick extreme results in polls just because) 57% report earning less than $100 a month. 30% reported earning less than 30 cents a day.

I don’t know about you – but that chart is both sobering and inspiring all in one. It shows quite clearly that most bloggers are not making much – but does also seem to indicate that there are some bloggers out there who are at least making at least a part time supplementary income from blogging.

Getting Your Expectations about Earning Money from Blogging Right

OK – some of you are possibly quite depressed by this stage. Should you give up on your dreams of making a living from blogging? Is it all too hard? Is it worth it?

Don’t give up but be Realistic.

My encouragement to all bloggers with the dream of building a blog that makes money is simple. Get into the game – but do so with realistic expectations. A few thoughts and tips to help you get those expectations right:

Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Very early on in my own blogging for money story I began to see the possibilities of earning a good living from blogs. Dreams are great for motivating and inspiring you – but they can also be a distraction and set you up for disappointment. Allow yourself time to think about ‘what could be’ but then get yourself focused upon the next step you need to take to take yourself in the direction you want to end up.

For me this was about setting realistic goals of what I could achieve in the next month. Each month I had the goal of increasing monthly traffic to my blogs by 10% on the previous month. This meant that over time I would see exponential growth to my blogs. With a goal of 10% growth in mind I then set myself ‘tasks’ – concrete things that I could do to achieve the goal (writing certain amounts of posts, networking with other bloggers etc).

Don’t give up your day job

There may one day come a time when you can give up that job and focus upon blogging full time – but that time is not likely to be now for most people reading this. My own experience of this (I share an extended version of my story of taking blogging from a hobby to a full time thing in the ProBlogger book by the way) was that I worked a number of part time jobs and was studying part time in my early days of blogging. As my blog income grew I slowly decreased the time I was working other jobs.

I actually was working a part time job even after I was earning a full time income from blogging. I wanted to have a backup in case things went pear shaped (in fact this was smart because at one point Google reindexed my blogs and my blogging income largely disappeared for a couple of months).

It’s really important to be responsible with cutting off other income sources in order to ‘go Pro’ as a blogger – particularly if you have a family relying upon your as the main income earner. I’ve seen a number of very sad stories of people taking this drastic action only to leave their family without income.

I’ve previously written about this in a post about Monkey Bar Blogging.

Take a Long Term View

Most successful blogs take years to build to their potential. It takes up time to:

  • build a large enough archive of posts
  • to build up loyal readers and subscriber numbers
  • to become known in your niche, to ‘get blogging’
  • to find your voice
  • to get authority in the eyes of the search engines…. etc

None of this just happens. It takes years to grow a blog.

It’s NOT Passive Income

Another common misconception about blogging for money is that it becomes ‘passive income’ – that you can sit back and let your blog earn you big dollars while you enjoy your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a few ‘passive’ elements to the income that a blog can generate. For example:

  • I could go away for a week today and not post anything on my blog and it would still earn me money
  • posts that I wrote 4 years ago continue to generate income for me

Yes it could be argued on these fronts that the income is somewhat passive. However blogging for money is a lot of hard work. Most bloggers whose blogs make it big time put a lot of time and energy into building their blogs. Most that I’ve met have worked beyond full time hours on their blogs over years.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun – one of the things I’ve discovered in the last few years is that hard work can be a lot of fun (who would have thought) – but there are days when it is very time consuming and challenging work.

Not all Blogs are Created Equal

I am often asked – ‘how many visitors a month do I need to earn $XXX?’

While I’d love to be able to give people a formula for working out the answer to this question the reality is that every blog is so different from every other blog. I’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and each time I do I relearn the lesson that no two blogs are alike.

Blogs vary from niche to niche (ie a finance blog will earn differently to a craft blog which will earn differently to a tech blog) – but even within niches they will perform very differently (I’ve had two photography blogs over the years and they couldn’t be more different).

I bring this up because quite often I come across bloggers who model their blogs after other blogs – sometimes to the point of copying every aspect of them. Unfortunately this isn’t a great way forward. Most successful blogs cut new ground, have their own voice, blog in their own style and tackle a topic with their own perspective. As a result they grow differently, attract their own audience and monetize differently.

Do learn from other blogs and bloggers – but also attempt to find your own way.

Further Reading:

I’ve talked about these issues numerous times in the past here at ProBlogger. One post that you might want to look at if you’d like a few tips on how to build a blog is a post I wrote some time ago outlining 18 Lessons I’ve learned about Blogging.

Beginner Blogger? Download this Free Report

If you’re a new blogger or one that’s been at it for a while but need a ‘boost’ you need to grab this free ‘Roadmap Report’ from the team at Become a Blogger – Yaro Starak and Gideon Shalwick.

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Yaro is the guy behind the very successful BlogMastermind blog coaching and mentoring program and has been working with Gideon on this new resource. Together they’ve produced a great series of free videos for those starting out in blogging at Become a Blogger. These videos have been watched tens of thousands of times and have helped many bloggers.

In the new Roadmap to Become a Blogger reports there’s some great information. Much of it centers around the idea of the X-factor – techniques that can help you stand from the crowd out as a blogger.

update: for those of you who don’t like to read – Yaro and Gideon have just released an audio version of it to those who have signed up.

What does it cost you?

The Roadmap report and videos are all free.

There is a paid program being launched in a couple of days that extends the ideas in the report but having read the report a few days ago I think there’s value in there whether you signup for the full paid program or not.

The actual course will be priced at a very affordable level from what I hear and looks like being something that will fit with many ProBlogger readers – but you can get a taste for if you are interested in that with this report and videos.

Characteristics of Traffic Generating Posts

When I set TwiTip up look after itself over the weekend (I set up a few posts to go live at specific times) I wasn’t expecting it to be a huge weekend of traffic. The posts were good – but there were less than during the week and past history shows weekends are quiet (particularly those after big holidays like Thanksgiving).

On Sunday night I logged into the blog to moderate comments and was surprised to see that on Saturday the blog had had it’s highest day of traffic since it was launched a few weeks back and Sunday was looking good to be a pretty decent day too.

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What happened?

As I reflect upon the reasons for this traffic – it all comes down to content. Over the weekend I had two particular posts that drove the vast majority of traffic to the blog.

In this post I want to take a look at these two posts and reflect upon some of their characteristics that I think were responsible for the traffic.

1. Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should Be Following - this is the post that started it all. It was a guest post by Mark Hayward that I really should have known had the potential to go viral (I guess when I posted it on the Friday I was a little tired after a big week).

Why did the post draw in a lot of traffic? A number of reasons come to mind:

  • Controversy – while I don’t believe Mark intended it to be controversial – it was. There was quite a bit of talk around Twitter about those included in this list of Twitter users and whether they should have been included, who was missed out, whether the list should have been written…. etc. Of course every time it was discussed the link was passed on which of course drew people to have a look.
  • List – the ‘list’ format of post is a classic way of getting a post to go viral. Find out why in my post – 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to Your Blog.
  • People Focus – there’s something about writing about other people that seems to draw a crowd. I’m not sure why it is – but I can think of numerous occasions that I’ve published posts about ‘people’ where the posts went viral. One of the reasons for this is that the people being written about (and their fans) often pass on these lists to others (a few retweeted it themselves).
  • Fulfilled a Need - whether you agree with the list or not – it actually seemed to connect with a lot of readers simply because they were beginner users of Twitter and didn’t know who to follow. This post gave people with this need an answer to this problem and a practical way to fix it.
  • Social Media - of course one of the advantages that a blog about Twitter has is that it tends to be read by fairly active Twitter users who are used to spreading links around as part of their normal web surfing. This post (and the next one) got linked to quite a bit on Twitter.
  • Repeat Tweets - one of the weaknesses with Twitter as a way of spreading news of a post on your blog is that when you tweet your links the impact of those tweets can be quite temporary because they tend to only be seen by people for a short period of time before your tweet is pushed down the list of tweets that they are following. I find that reweeting your own tweets every now and again can give fresh momentum to those who didnt’ see your first one (I only do it on my best posts and a maximum of 2-3 times a day.

2. Construct your own ‘Top 10 Must Follow’ List as it Relates to Your Own Niche – this next post was not planned and was written on the fly on Sunday morning after I logged in and saw some of the buzz around the first post above.

As I began to read some of the comments on the first post (both those that didn’t like the list and those that did) I realized that there was an opportunity to take the ‘buzz’ further.

Actually – if I am honest, the idea the idea actually came to me as I did damage control and as I wrote a comment on the first post answering some of the concerns that readers had with it. I didn’t really want things to blow up and was trying to find a way to turn some of the negativity into something more positive.

One of the recurring comments about the first post was that it was too narrow – that the list just focused upon those into social media as a topic. It struck me that while this was a valid critique that on another level it actually made the list more valuable to those with that interest.

A light bulb went on and in the comment I suggested people create more lists that focused upon specific niches/topics/industries. Within 20 minutes of making that suggestion people began to take up my idea and post comments. I quickly realized that the idea had energy and decided to make the idea into an actual post.

Once I did this – the post really took off. A number of reasons come to mind as to why it did:

  • Momentum – the first post fed the second (and the second fed the first). I find that when I write posts one after the other that build upon each other that it can have a powerful impact upon a blog’s traffic. This is a perfect example of what I talk about in a previous post – How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts. One of the take home lessons from this is that it’s important to monitor how people are responding to your posts because in those responses could be a seed for future ones.
  • Reader participation – this post gave readers a specific invitation to do something very practical and relevant to their own interests. People respond well to invitations to answer questions or do little challenges (as long as they are not too hard) and that is part of the reason for the success of this post. Interestingly, many of the people who constructed lists then went on to tweet links to their comments because they were proud of their submissions and they were relevant to what they used Twitter for.
  • Positive/Constructive Focus – while there was a slight negativity about some of the comments in the first post’s ‘controversy’ – there was a very different vibe in the comments on the second. People seemed to appreciate and respond well to the positive and constructive challenge.
  • Invitation to Blog about it – in this post I gave people the opportunity to leave their lists either in comments or on their own blogs. Most left comments but a number blogged about it – most of those that did linked back to my post to give their list context (even though I didn’t require or even ask for this).

Concluding Remarks

The lists of characteristics in these posts above are things that I think are some great starting points for writing popular posts. They don’t guarantee them – and you certainly couldn’t use them all in every post that you write – but as I look over them I see that many of them have worked for me in previous posts.

It also strikes me as I read through them that while I was quite strategic about my second post – that the first one was a little more accidental (at least from my perspective). Sometimes posts have a life of their own take off for reasons you didn’t anticipate. The key in these times is to be watching out for opportunities to extend the life of these traffic events.

PS: to further build the momentum on these two posts I’m going to take some of the reader submitted lists and turn them into posts themselves (see the update on the second post).

How Much Money Did You Earn from Blogging in October 2008?

It’s time for another annual poll here at ProBlogger – this one asking readers how much they earned in October 2008? I’ve run this poll a number of times over the last couple of years and the results are always interesting.

Just to qualify it – I’m asking about ALL blogging revenue that you can tie to your actual blog. Advertising, affiliate revenue, revenue that your blog might have brought in in terms of consulting etc. As long as you feel your blog drew the money in then I’m happy for it to be included.

In October, How Much Did You Earn from Blogging?
View Results


Looking forward to seeing your results.