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4 Foundations of a Successful Blog

SXSW-book-reading.pngAt 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:

  1. how I launched the blog – the four foundations that I build in years 1-2
  2. how I built upon the foundations – what I focused upon in years 3-4
  3. how I monetize the blog
  4. 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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for once again breaking things down like this. It’s nice to see how a successful person achieved their success. Keep up the good work!

  2. Wick says:

    Very good systemized building plan. Not clear tips but good direction to think. Thanks.

  3. rososusilo says:

    yah, monetize is not important.

    by the way, have you ever visited a blog somewere, recently. there was a big face on the google ad, he said: “Chitika is my No. 2 source of revenue”……………….smile

  4. Adit says:

    Thanks Darren for your sharing. Your post is an insight for me.
    I will try to build the foundation of 3 and 4.
    Success for you.

  5. forlan says:

    It is hard to build a community but we should build it.

  6. You’ve got your point across much better than I at any time might, thank you!

  7. nikos says:

    Don’t get me wrong, nice info and all. But while reading various posts on the subject I thing that this kind of info is just keep repeating itself. Thanks for posting though.

  8. This is one post with some of the simplest and the most radical requirements for a blogger or more so a “problogger”. I really appreciate you reemphasizing the same. I have written an article about the most useful blog posts and this is one of my suggestions to my readers. Here is the link.

  9. ron says:

    most of the stuff in this blog is what my blog needs thanks for the info Darren. Keep up the good work and I hope to see more of your blogs very soon . Take it easy

  10. I agree very much with the fact that RSS isn’t such a familiar way of reading your blog and subscribing to it.

    People still use email to receive the content or alert they want from your blog. Serve them as they want.

    Also, search engine optimization is a winning point in your content creation process. While you take SEO as an integral part of your copywriting, you start tapping into the power of search engines to attract more audience. Then, have them subscribe to your content and retain your traffic.

  11. Jarret says:

    Thanks Darren, I’ve been reading problogger since 2007 and it still remains a useful and relevant source for blogging inspiration.

  12. I like the 1-2-3-4 year plan approach. I wish more bloggers followed/promoted that mindset. I’ve talked to several people lately with great niche blog ideas and suggested similar approaches. I’m in the year three period and my blog has definitely taken shape. Making a great blog is a combination of the basics that (Problogger teaches), testing new methods unique to your own blog and just gutting it out when you think you’re going nowhere. All those have been crucial ingredients during the growth time line of my blog. I also can’t stress making contacts and reaching out to other blogger enough. Blogging is a community and you must find a way to connect with others, give value to and shine a light on their audiences, too.

    Great stuff Darren and I’m looking forward to the book.

  13. Thank you Darren for all your posts.
    I have been doing my recipe blogging for a while now, and reading your posts are extremely helpful as you already know :)
    Anyway, I thought maybe this way I can ask you to write about some specific strategies for a niche blog topic, like a recipe blog.
    I’ll keep on reading and thanks.

  14. Darren, this post confirms that I am “on track” and building it out the right way. Going into year two now building brand authenticity, content, supporters, tribe and the monetization will come. People who think this is an “overnight thing”, need to be patient with their process, but have one and work it.
    I appreciate how generous you are with your wisdom, experience and the truth!

  15. Darren- Great stuff. I think that you hit the nail on the head. As someone who is just starting blogging I will use these tips. Keep up the great work, you are a great help to many!

  16. Hi guys,

    I like the 4 foundations you shared. Content, Promotion, Community and Capture Contents. All these are important for a successful blog.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  17. Bri says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. I’m part of a wedding and portrait photography team who is starting up a blog, so it’s really great to read some starting points! Thanks and I look forward to reading more!

  18. Robbi says:

    Thank you for your post darren, now i know the fundamentals thing for a blog.

  19. Duffy says:

    Thanks for the info. I just started a blog this month encouraging men in their jobs, home, life, as a Christian. Men are so beaten down by society that they need to be lifted up to the Christian leadership role God intended. I am focusing on content, because that is all I understand at the moment. This is an OJT project. Your post gives me direction I needed.

  20. John says:

    Hi Darren,
    I agree with you completely with all the points you have mentioned, new bloggers should definitely think about the content before making money.
    I think your post will really help new bloggers, it has reminded me the importance of the basics, and I have made sure I have used all these points on my blog.
    Good job.
    John

  21. i’m so agree with this ..

    making a concept for new blog something have long times before get action. promotion and other but with good all of this .. be a success

  22. sayrung says:

    Great tips for a beginner blogger as myself. Thankyou!!

  23. Key take-a-way: Monetization wasn’t a big focus in the first 1-2 years. Many people think it happens overnight which is rarely the case.

  24. Thanks for the insight,it all now seems a little bit clearer.

  25. You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren¡¯t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.