At a recent book reading at SXSW I spoke briefly about a new chapter in the new ProBlogger book (due out next month) that is a case study of my main blog (4-5 bigger than ProBlogger) – Digital Photography School.
dPS is now just a few days away from being 4 years old and so with the new edition of the book Chris and I thought it might be a good idea to include a new chapter that examined how I’ve developed the blog so far.
The case study looks at 4 main aspects:
- how I launched the blog – the four foundations that I build in years 1-2
- how I built upon the foundations – what I focused upon in years 3-4
- how I monetize the blog
- the way I use email to drive traffic to and monetize the blog
In this post I want to talk briefly about the four foundations that I focused upon in years 1-2 of building my photography site.
I won’t go into great detail about each one here (if you want more the book is your best bet) but as my reading was interrupted by a fire alarm at SXSW I wanted to cover some of it here for those who missed the 2nd half.
Foundation 1 – Content
- My #1 task in years 1-2 of dPS was building content.
- The focus was content for beginners (this was expanded later).
- My aim was for every post to solve a problem that a new camera owner had.
- The content was all ‘how to’ related – practical stuff that helped readers do or achieve something
- Quality of content was paramount – but so too was the idea of increasing the ‘quantity’ of content – I started with 3-4 posts a week but aimed to get it daily after 1 year.
Foundation 2 – Promotion
- ‘Build it and they Will Come’ is an idea with some truth to it – but in the early days of your blog you also need to actively promote your blog – readers won’t just find it.
- Define your potential reader – who are they? What are their needs?
- Identify where that type of reader is already gathering online (and offline).
- Participate in those sites where your potential reader is gathering – guest posts, building a forum presence, leaving useful comments, networking etc.
Foundation 3 – Community
- People don’t just come online for information – they increasingly are coming online to find ‘belonging’
- Readers want to participate, interact, join and relate – give them opportunity to do so
- On dPS starting a forum was one way I did this however community was something I went out of my way to build on the blog itself.
- Use polls, start discussions, run debates, ask questions, highlight readers work, invite people to promote themselves on your blog, link to your readers
- When you build community you build an army of evangelists for your blog, create social proof and open many doors for growth and strengthening of your site
Foundation 4 – Capture Contacts
- Most people who visit your site will never return naturally – even if they like your site
- On dPS I prominently invite people to subscribe in numerous places
- RSS is not always King – on dPS email subscription makes up over 75% of all subscribers
- Email newsletters drive as much traffic as Google does on dPS
- Email newsletters drive significant earnings (advertising, affiliate promotions and product sales)
- Email newsletters build community and make the site more sticky and personal
NOTE: Monetization was not one of the Main Tasks/Foundations in Years 1-2
I did monetize the site from day 1 and dPS was profitable from the first month or two – but it was not my main focus. Rather I focused upon the above 4 foundations and let the monetization grow naturally as traffic and reader engagement grew.
In years 1-2 monetization was largely through 2 ad networks – AdSense and Chitika (aff). I did some low level affiliate marketing (Amazon mainly) but over 90% of the income in years 1-2 was from ad networks. Years 3-4 were when I increased my focus upon monetization.
Image by beley.