Close
Close

Million Dollar Blogger Interviewed

Yaro Starak has just published an audio interview with one of his former students (and now a coach) from BlogMastermind Alborz Fallah.

Alborz is behind a car blog here in Australia – a blog that has enabled him to grow his blog to a point where it’s been valued at over $5 million – have a partnership with a major media company, take on investors and more. It’s pretty impressive since he only started blogging in 2006!

This guy is getting luxury cars to review, is competing with the biggest car sites in this country and employs 6 full time staff.

Here’s the interview (there’s a transcript too) – it’s a great story with tips on writing content, finding readers and more.

PS: having just listened to this for the 2nd time what shines through to me is Alborz’s passion for his topic and his believe in writing amazing content. I think these things are central in what he’s achieved – great stuff.

Upcoming Interview with The Blog Squad

Hi all, Darren’s still on paternity leave, but will be doing the interview “Blogging for dollars: Can you really make 6-figures?” this Thursday with The Blog Squad. I just wanted to post the details so you can go register!

The Blog Squad Interviews Darren Rowse, Problogger.net
Thursday, June 26, 2008
7 p.m. Eastern Time
Free – Registration Required
http://www.blogsquadteleseminars.com/problogger

Blogging for dollars: Can you really make 6-figures?

You’ll learn:

> How to determine the right monetization method that’s right for you

> The difference between active and passive income

> How to optimize ads for your blog

> The design elements you must have for your blog to be an effective money-maker

> Some of the secrets that make a blog successful

> Plus much more!

Register now at http://www.blogsquadteleseminars.com/problogger

StrongLifts.com 0 – 13,000+ Subscribers in 12 months [INTERVIEW]

StrongliftsToday I want to feature an interview with Mehdi from Strong Lifts – a good example of a blog that is focusing upon a niche topic and growing a readership quickly over the last 12 months.

Tell us about your blog – what’s it about, why and when did you start it, who reads it?

StrongLifts.com is a blog about how to build muscle & lose fat through strength training. Topics include how to go from chubby to muscular, how to go from skinny to muscular, how to get stronger, how to perform exercises correctly, how to avoid injuries, how to improve your posture, how to eat healthier, etc

There are articles about body-weight exercises too, but the blog is mainly about weight lifting. It’s not bodybuilding: it’s not about working out for aesthetic purposes only. It’s about training to get stronger. This increases muscle mass, testosterone levels, cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones & joints, lowers body fat, increases self-confidence, and much more.

I started StrongLifts.com for 2 reasons:

1) I was doing a job that wasn’t me for 5 years and had been looking for a way out. Summer 2006 someone sent me Steve Pavlina’s post how to make money blogging. I had never heard about blogs before, but this got me interested.

I looked for more info on blogging. Came across John Chow who got serious about blogging around the same time. I followed how his blog got big in a few months. This stuff seemed so easy, I decided to start a blog too.

Through John Chow I found Problogger. I printed the “blogging for beginners” series and studied everything (Darren is not paying me to say this. I don’t read Problogger anymore, but this really happened).

So my 1st reason was to start a blog that makes enough money to leave my day job. I wanted to be self-employed, and set the rules for myself. I knew I liked to teach people things, so blogging would fit. But I needed a topic.

2) I’ve been training for 10 years and often get questions about it. Friends, family, co-workers see how I look. They want the same thing. They’re often surprised I can eat so much without gaining fat by training 3-4x/week for 1 hour.

There’s a strong bias against weight lifting: unsafe, unhealthy, gets you bulky, etc. So you do other things like running, because “you have to exercise”. But you hate running. And that makes it very hard to do it consistently.

Be open minded, forget what you think you know about weight lifting and give it a try. You’ll never go back. Because once you try it, you’ll realize this stuff is so easy, it’s laughable. Whatever your age or gender.

Weight lifting & strength training made me who I am today. I believe everybody would be better off if they did it. That’s why I started StrongLifts.com: to give more people information on how they can easily build muscle & lose fat: like I do.

The guy with whom I started training 10y ago gave me idea to make a website about all of this in February 2007. StrongLifts.com went online May 1st 2007.

The majority of the 200k monthly visitors are males between 20 & 35y old. But there are females, teens and 55y old readers too. I remember getting an email from a 72y old guy who did Squats & Deadlifts and felt great.

Most readers are from the US, but there are readers from all over the world. What they all share is a willingness to change. To change their lifestyle, to live healthier, to be more active. It’s definitely not easy when you have a business, career, family, social life, … But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Where does most of your traffic come from?

60% from search. I get a lot of traffic from Google. 10% is direct traffic. 13k RSS readers means a lot of readers will click back to the site to check comments, click link inside the articles, etc

The rest comes from social media & referrals. Digg doesn’t work well with my content, although I hit Digg front page once. Stumbleupon does better, I’ve had spikes of 3-4k visitors/day in the past.

I get daily inbound links from forums. Several articles are “flagship content” (I got that one from chrisg). Readers link to these articles to answer questions on relevant forums. This is targeted traffic.

Note that relying on Google for traffic is a bad business model. That’s why I focused on converting traffic to RSS from the start.

You’ve managed to build up your RSS readership to 13,000 in 12 months (it’s now 14,000) – that’s 1000 a month and a good strong rate – how did you do it?

Well it didn’t really went like that. StrongLifts.com went online May 1st 2007. It reached 1k RSS in November 2007. 5k in January 2008. 10k start of May 2008, ending the month at 14k. Check the graph below.

Feedburner-13K

A lot of bloggers only care about generating traffic. Any business is about generating AND converting leads. I decided to convert traffic not to money, but to RSS. So I read & tried everything about how to increase RSS.

Most of the stuff I tried didn’t work for StrongLifts.com. Example: most traffic comes from google/forums. Often these readers don’t know what RSS is, they don’t know what the ticker stands for, neither what a blog is. They don’t know, because I didn’t know before I started a blog.

So these tips “put RSS high on your blog, put a big button, ask them to subscribe”, only works if your traffic consists of readers familiar with RSS (traffic from social media or blogs). I know this, because I tracked everything with google analytics.

But I still wanted to increase StrongLifts.com’s readership. So I thought about other ways for many weeks. Thinking outside the box, checking what other sites, non-blogs, did. Then the solution came pretty easy.

Check back the graph above. RSS started to increased mid-December 2007. That’s when I started to offer a 52 pages free ebook to anyone who subscribes. Since then I’ve optimized the sales letter, link placement, etc (use google analytics). It’s far from perfect, but RSS now increases by 3k/month. Which means I’ll reach 40k RSS by the end of the year. And that’s assuming the traffic doesn’t increase.

How do you make money from your blog? Is it your full time job? If not, is that a goal?

StrongLifts.com isn’t generating a full time income yet. I never, and still don’t, focus my efforts on making money. Building experience, building a reputation and building a readership is more important in the long-term. It’s easier to monetize a blog once you’ve built a foundation.

StrongLifts.com generates money through:

  • Amazon & Affiliates. Products I own and recommend my readers get. Good things aren’t free. You learn faster reading books than reading blogs.
  • Google Adsense. I have one block above the comments. Don’t want ads inside the content. It doesn’t make much money that way, but it also sends less traffic away from the blog. I’ll remove this in the future.
  • Personal Training. Whatever business you’re in, you’re always selling something. Selling your own product is smarter than selling someone else’s. I started with personal training recently, not only for the money but because I enjoy it more than writing.

StrongLifts.com is my full time job. I worked 5 years in an IT helpdesk. Quit the job 12 days after the blog went online because:

  • 5 years doing the same job was the limit.
  • I couldn’t combine blogging with my day job.
  • I wanted to burn my bridges.

Even though I lost a good income, I never regretted resigning. Regaining freedom and doing something I like mattered more than a paycheck. I couldn’t do what I to do today if I hadn’t done that job. But it was “time to move on”.

What’s the biggest blogging mistake you’ve made in the last 12 months and what did you learn from it?

Underestimating blogging. Although I got somewhere during the last 12 months, I thought it would be easier. Blogging is harder than it looks: copywriting, marketing, customer service, … You have to learn a lot of things.

I made a lot of other “mistakes”, but don’t really see them as such. Failure is part of the learning process. You have to make mistakes to get somewhere in life. “Failure is life’s best teacher” - Napoleon Hill.

What 3 things have contributed the most to the success you’ve had so far?

  • Determination. I wasn’t going to “try”. I DECIDED I would become a blogger. Quitting my day job guaranteed I had no way back. When you REALLY want something, everything you need to get it comes your way. Including the answers to how to get there.
  • Walking The Talk. I’ve been lifting weights since 10 years and still do. I’ve trained in commercial gyms and now own a home gym. I’ve combined lifting weights with working 2 jobs and night shifts. I’ve combined it with relationships and social life. I’ve been able to eat healthy on a tight budget. I’ve injured myself dozens of times. I’ve trained when ill and injured. I’ve trained after a night drinking alcohol or a 4 hour night sleep. You get the point. Readers sense I’m not bullshitting them. And they understand that a) it’s not meant to be easy b) you’ll never achieve perfection c) if I can do it, you can definitely do it too.
  • Giving. Free articles, free ebook, free coaching, … Some people don’t like working for free. Truth is that you always get something back. Yes I’ve helped people who didn’t even say thank you. But I also had readers who optimized the blog and proofread the ebook for free because they felt they had to return the favor. But here’s what I always got back but what most people fail to realize: EXPERIENCE. You can lose your whole blog, you can lose all your money on your back account, but one thing no-one can ever take away from you: the knowledge & experience you’ve built by helping people. That is priceless.

Can you give ProBlogger readers 3 practical tips of what to do to grow their readership

  • Write Good Content. Find out what people’s problems are. Give them the solution to their problems. How do you find this? 1) by walking the talk so you experience the same problems b) by interacting with your (potential) readers: friends, familiy, co-workers, forums, emails, comments, … Ideas are everywhere, you just have to pick them up.
  • Guest Posts. Make a list of blogs with a high amount of readers and who often get on digg/del.icio.us/stumbleupon front page. If it’s a blog in the same niche, easy. If it’s a blog in a different niche: think outside the box (Example). Write a how-to post, your best one. Include relevant, non spammy back links to your own site, with anchor text optimized for search engine. Send the post to the blogger. Be blunt, don’t ask for permission “will you let me guest post”, just send the whole post, tell him to read it and publish it if he likes it with the only condition that he must keep the non-spammy relevant back links with anchor text. If you wrote a good post, every bloggers will say yes, because it’s like a day off. Hope it gets dugg, will get you back links (anchor text) from the blog and other blogs that copy-paste posts increasing long-term google ranking while creating short term traffic. If the blogger says no to the back links or to your post, send it to the next blogger on your list. Don’t give up, keep trying. If 5 bloggers say no, question your article.
  • eBook. Write an eBook that has the solution to your readers problems. Give it away for free, but only after they subscribe by RSS (download link available through feedburner only). Mention you give away an ebook at the bottom of each post. Make a salesletter for the eBook. Track conversions using google analytics. Tweak it constantly.

What tips do you have for people who want to start a blog?

  • Read. Knowledge is power. Throw your TV out and read everything you come across: copywriting, direct advertising, marketing, business, self-improvement, … Read 1 book per week and you’ll get ahead of 80% of the population.
  • Believe. Watch out for The Crabs. Some people will tell you that you can’t do it, that you will never make money blogging, that you do not have the skills/knowledge to get there. Ignore them. Several people make money blogging, you could be the next one. No-one can tell you if you’ll succeed or not. It all depends on you. So want this and go for it.
  • Don’t Do It for The Money. Blogging looks fun: waking up when you want, writing some blog posts, answering emails, making money online, … That’s indeed how it will look if you stick with it. But not during your first months. i’ve worked 70h on average during the past 12 months, and I’m not “there” yet. So if you’re looking for an easy way out of your day job or if you’re looking for easy money: don’t do it, because you have the wrong mindset and will fail. Blog about something you like, add value to the world, pay your dues. And yes one day you’ll get there.

Monday Morning Coffee with Darren and Guy

Filename-1Over the weekend one of the more comprehensive interviews that I’ve done of late went live over at Sun.com. The interview was with Guy Kawasaki (he interviewed me) and covers everything from:

  • Small Business Blogging
  • How much bloggers can make
  • Seth Godin’s “no-comments” policy
  • ValleyWag’s “ask us permission to comment” policy
  • Blogging tools
  • RSS Feed Readers
  • Some of My favorite blogs
  • Google PageRank
  • Six Figure Blogging
  • Technorati and Yahoo’s future
  • And More

There’s 18 questions in all – enjoy.

Renaming eMomsatHome to SparkPlugging [Interview]

Renaming-Sparkplugging

Regular readers of ProBlogger will be familiar with Wendy Piersall from eMomsatHome.com. I’ve watched Wendy establish a presence with her own first blog and then in more recent times expand it into a small blog network of 7 blogs.

A few weeks ago she emailed me to talk about the rebranding and naming of her blog network. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a little of her journey of grappling with this new process and am really happy to be able to officially announce that eMomsatHome.com is now….((insert drum roll here))….

Sparkplugging

As I post this Wendy and her team are rolling it all out (still a few little touches still to go – these things take a little time to transition).

Wendy asked me if I’d like the scoop of announcing the new name and I suggested that we take it a step further and that she allow me to ask her a few questions about the process of switching names. She agreed and here’s my mini interview with Wendy.

Why did you feel the need to change your brand’s name?

Since I started eMoms at Home initially as a hobby site, I didn’t really think of the long-term consequences of naming a site that excludes half of the human race. I started noticing it as a problem very early on, about 5 months after I started. I had a lot of dads and non-parents frequenting the site. But I also had people say things like, “Oh, I didn’t pay attention to your site because I thought it was only for moms”.

I thought that I could build up the brand enough to overcome the initial limitations, but recently at the SXSW conference, it just became painfully clear that we had completely outgrown our name. People flat out told me they would never have read our site based on our name – even though they admitted that they had an active interest in our content. I could now see that ‘eMoms at Home’ was actively holding us back from further growth.

Can you talk us through how you went about making this change?

Understanding our Audience
Quite honestly it was an extraordinarily difficult process. At first I came up with several names around ‘parents’, and when I asked for input from our readers, the feedback was fascinating. Many of them weren’t parents, and even those that were parents didn’t want to come to a ‘parenting site’ for their business information. I hadn’t expected that at all. And it made the naming process 100% more difficult as I realized this wasn’t just a naming issue, but the site needed to entirely reposition itself to truly serve our readers needs.

So I took a step back from our site being a site for parents in business – which was not easy for me personally, because I’m very proud of the work we have done to help working parents. But in order to really serve our readers, I realized that we needed to position ourselves as a resource for people who use the internet and technology to create flexible work for themselves – both parents and non parents.

Domain Research Hell
I hadn’t looked to purchase a domain name of this magnitude of importance for 2 years. It was astonishing to see just how much the domain squatting industry has been built up in that time. I found hundreds of potential names, yet all were taken and had made for AdSense sites on them. I think I spent over 100 hours on domain research and brainstorming.

Another factor is that our audience, while extremely experienced in business, doesn’t really have a standard ‘label’. They don’t really consider themselves ‘home business owners’ nor do they consider themselves ‘true entrepreneurs’. They are a vastly diverse group of amazing people that kind of fall in between those two stereotypes, and call themselves things like “author, blogger, consultant, freelancer, moonlighter, marketers, or tech geeks”. I couldn’t really choose one one of those names, because any of them would be too limiting.

More below the screen caps…

Sparkplugging

Finding the Right Metaphor
So the quest for something brandable and metaphorical began, and it was excruciating. I emailed nearly every marketer I knew asking for help and advice, including you, Toby Bloomberg, Susan Payton, and Marla Tabaka, my business coach. PickyDomains offered their help, and I also found WordLab, a free naming forum. All were extremely helpful – none came up with the right name.

Finally, after probably 10,000 page views on Thesaurus.com, I came upon the word Sparkplug used as an adjective, “A person who makes things happen”. Immediately I knew I had found my metaphor. At that point, I just had to find a good domain with some version of that word in it. That took another week, and I had to stalk a few domain owners to try and get them to sell their domains. In the end, I was able to purchase our domain from the owner who was going to let it expire in about 60 days. And we are now Sparkplugging – Thinking Big in the New Work at Home Generation.

Now that you’ve made the decision to make the change, can you tell us about your plans to transition from the old brand and name to the new one?

I already had plans in place to add new blogs to my blog network in March. The naming process delayed that project, and all of us were happy to get that name picked so that we could get back to doing what we do best – blogging.

I pestered Aaron Wall and my Twitter followers quite a bit for information on how to manage creating accurate 301 server redirects, because even my very experienced developer had never moved a site of our size to a new domain. I’m pretty confident we’ll be fine, but I do anticipate taking a hit in traffic from Google for a while.

An unexpected casualty of this process was that I didn’t know what to do with my own blog on the network with this new name. I never liked that my blog was the same name as the site – I thought it was confusing. But in order to continue to be the ‘flagship’ blog of my own network, I realized I couldn’t be focused so much on Moms anymore, which again was difficult for me personally. I really was only able to be OK with that decision by adding a blog to the network specific to work at home moms, because helping moms start a business is just so near and dear to my heart. I found the perfect person to do that, Kelly McCausey. She’s a very well known WAHM and I was thrilled to get her involved. And my own blog will be named Sparkplug CEO and shift focus a bit to be more entrepreneurial, especially because I’m thinking of doing some much bigger things with the site under our new name.

So right when we change, we’ll be launching the first two of ten new blogs we’re adding to the network, The Home Office Organizer & Believer in Balance. Then to keep up our momentum (and keep people coming back!), we’ll be launching 2 more blogs a week for the following 4 weeks. Of course, we’ll do things like contests, press releases, and hit our word of mouth efforts heavily as well. Plus we’ll put a huge focus on rebuilding links to the new domain. Giving up our Technorati rank is admittedly a blow, but obviously what’s best for the company comes before anything like that.

Honestly, I feel like I am in very uncharted territory. I know that The Mining Company changed their name once upon a time to About.com, but I haven’t seen any large blogs do anything like this. So as much as I can prepare for it, I know full well that I’m going to be totally learning-as-we-go. Many people in the blogging community have offered to help spread the word and I really don’t think that we could pull something like this off without the support of our readers and peers. Overall this has been both a rewarding and humbling experience – and I couldn’t be more grateful for my authors, my friends, and my colleagues who have helped us grow to this point, and who will be there for us as we change.

Ultimately it’s really an honor to be a resource for our community, as I’m sure you well know, Darren. :)

Interview with a Weblogs Inc Blog ‘Producer’

VictorWhile at SXSW Interactive earlier this month I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with some of the Weblogs Inc bloggers. It was great to get a little insight into how one of the original blog networks has grown and is now currently operating a couple of years after it’s sale to AOL.

One of those that I met was Victor Agreda Jr. When I asked him what his role was he told me that he was a ‘blog producer’ at a number of WIN’s blogs. The idea of blogs having a ‘producer’ immediately intrigued me and I asked him if he’d be willing to do a mini interview to explore it. Here it is:

Darren: How long have you been working with Weblogs Inc? How did you get the job with them?

Victor: I started blogging for Weblogs back in 2005 with Download Squad. I originally applied for TUAW, in part because I was the top-ranked commenter (at the time comments were given 1-5 stars by the bloggers) and I had huge numbers of comments.

I later wound up on TUAW as a blogger (about 6 months later). My full-time gig began a little less than 2 years ago. I was brought on partly for my tech background, and partly because I speak Spanish.

Darren: When we met in Austin you described your role as a ‘producer’ of a few of Weblogs Inc’s blogs – can you unpack what a blog producer does for us?

Victor: In fact, my AOL title is “programming manager” but “producer” is probably more accurate. I come from a film/video background, and “producing” our blogs is pretty similar. I make sure the trains run on time, people get paid, content is getting posted, etc. Basically middle-management (which means I get to watch everyone having fun while blogging).

Darren: Which blogs do you work with?

TUAW, Download Squad, DIY Life plus Autoblog Latino and the Spanish version of Engadget and Autoblog.

Darren: What is the biggest challenge for you in your work?

Victor: Finding and retaining top talent. I used to say ‘especially in tech’ before we launched DIY, but honestly, it is all pretty rough. Either folks have their own blog they are monetizing (no matter how small– but people like to “own” their stuff) or they are lacking in some critical fashion (can’t write).

Darren: Does WIN employ producers on other blogs? Do their roles differ to yours at all?

Victor: We have two others at my level, plus one person one level up the career ladder (Barb, who manages 3 f/t Joystiq editors). We split our properties up among “verticals” so, for example, Willy would manage Cinematical and TV Squad, while Kristi handles Slashfood and Aisledash (entertainment vs. lifetsyle blogs).

Darren: Do you have any advice or tips for smaller to medium sized blogs that want to step up in terms of professionalism and growth?

Victor: Building a team is crucial, always. Once you grow beyond just yourself, it is important to have a talent pool who can bring a variety of skills to the table. This usually means a level of tech-savvy (people shouldn’t be afraid of wikis or simple HTML) plus a certain level of management ability. There also gets a point where you need someone focusing on sales!

Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse Talk Blogging

Got a spare hour (55.24 minutes to be exact)? No me either – but if you want something to listen to today while you blog you might like to listen to a podcast interview that Chris Garrett did with me a couple of days back – The Story of the ProBlogger – Darren Rowse. Towards the end of it I even announce a small new ‘project’ that I’ve been working on for the last five months that is going to be ‘released’ at the start of June.

How to Be a Rockstar eBook Seller [Interview]

125X125-1In mid December last year I posted a mini review of a new ebook – How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer by Cyan and Collis Ta’eed from the popular FreelanceSwitch blog.

I enjoyed the book so much (and am always fascinated by bloggers making money from these types of resources) that I asked Collis if I could interview him about the process of writing and promoting the ebook. What follows is that interview:

Where did the idea for a book come from?
Actually initially I had been writing a book about business online, and I was about two chapters in when we launched FreelanceSwitch back in April 2007. The site was such a hit that I instantly dropped the business book and decided to write one tailored to the market we were creating.

I hunted around on Amazon to see what other books in the category were around and was pleased to find that most other books on freelancing are by writers for writers. I thought a book aiming to help all types of freelancers would be well received.

How long did it take to write?
I’d say in actual hours it was probably about 80 hours of writing, but it happened over a period of 9 months. Certainly I could never have written the book in two straight 40 hour weeks.

What I was unprepared for was that editing took the same amount of time. Fortunately Cyan was responsible for this task (as well as writing one of the chapters herself) and we also managed to rope Leo Babauta of ZenHabits in return for redesigning his site.

Moreover that was just a single edit. We are now working on a second edition with more edits and incorporating any feedback we’ve had.

Any tips for budding authors in terms of writing it?

My main tip would be that unless you a very self disciplined person there will be a lot of times where you *really* don’t feel like writing. The more you put it off, the worse it gets. I found it was best to allocate some time, a day or a few hours before work, and start writing, no matter what. Sometimes you delete everything you write in the first half hour, but once you get into the swing it gets easier and things flow.

The other tip is to not discount the editing process. As someone with no background in writing or editing, I completely misjudged how long it would take to edit a book and how much revision is needed.

Finally it’s worth registering your book with the library of congress in Washington. Although strictly copyright is bestowed on the author of the work automatically, having a registration makes proving your ownership a much simpler process.

What’s the relationship like between the blog and the book?

Having a blog is to me an ideal platform to launch a book. There are two reasons for this:

(1) You have an audience of people who are interested in your opinion on a particular subject. This is a natural group of people to purchase a book extending and formalising the knowledge you are giving out on the blog. Moreover it is a great platform to begin selling your book, as inevitably word of mouth helps drive sales.

(2) When you blog you develop a network of other bloggers who know you and more than likely see your book release a newsworthy event. We’ve been so fortunate that on the release of the book, a variety of sites have featured or mentioned it.

Additionally, we’ve found that selling a book has been an excellent way of monetizing the site. This is something we’ve struggled with, particularly with advertising which seems to be tough business to be in. Selling a product – be it a book, or a course like they say in Teaching Sells – is to me, a much more dependable business to be in. Where advertising is relying on a few, large transactions, selling a book is relying on a lot of smaller transactions. This is inherently more stable.

How are sales going?

Sales have been really good, exceeding our own expectations. Since I know, personally I’m always dying to get actual numbers when other people talk about things like sales, I’ve made a graph of the daily sales of the book for Problogger readers to reference (see below).

Some things to note are that periodically the sales spikes, particularly around the 18th of December when we sent out sample copies to many other bloggers to give away or review. Also the first day (the 14th) and the 22nd when we mailed out a discount offer for the book.

200801162133-1

So overall, it’s been good. I know that some ebooks sell in much larger quantities (e.g. the 37Signals book which has sold more than 30,000 copies) and I suppose many sell in smaller quantities. The main thing though is that the sales seem to be settling into a consistent earning proposition.

Are you able to get a break down on how many are buying it from Freelance Switch as opposed to from other sources? I’m interested in seeing if it’s readers who are buying it or others?

Not exactly, however we have an affiliate program, so I can say how much of the sales have been a result of that. About 1/3 of all sales come from an affiliate link.

You’ve decided to launch with an ebook but also say you’ll do a hard copy on lulu – What was the thinking there?

At 212 pages, the book is a fairly long read. Personally, I don’t tend to read long ebooks (although I still seem to buy them anyway!) With Lulu’s service there isn’t really any cost associated with selling a book in paperback in that you don’t need to hold stock or process orders. The cost per print of each book is around $8 plus Lulu takes a commission as well. So we’re selling the book for $35 on Lulu (Available here) and out of each sale about $21 comes to us.

In essence, there’s really no reason *not* to sell the book as a hard copy.

One day I hope that we’ll have enough capital to get the book into bookstores, but for the moment we’re content to have it as an ebook/lulu paperback.

What techniques have you used to promote the book?

Early on, months prior to completing the book, we added a page to the FreelanceSwitch site promising a book. We included an email newsletter sign up form that I created in about 30 seconds using CampaignMonitor which stated that subscribers would receive a $10 off voucher when the book came out.

Over the three months we had almost a thousand people sign up for the launch code. This meant that we had one thousand people to email when we launched the book. Sure we lost 33% of sales coming from those customers, but the tradeoff of getting momentum and early sales was worth it.

We’ve now got a subscription form for the next book – How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer – up at http://freelanceswitch.com/book.

What section of the book are you most proud of/excited by – and why?

Oddly enough the thing that I’m most proud of is the branding of the book. Early on we had planned to call the book “Hired Gun” and make it a one off. But on the advice of our FreelanceSwitch subeditor John Brougher, we decided instead to create a brand for the book – How to be a Rockstar – which means that we can now release other books and leverage the success of the first.

So you can look forward to not only a second edition of this first book to be released soon (and made available to previous purchasers) but also other books in the same line.

Get a Copy – if you don’t have a copy of the book you can buy one at How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer.

Interview with Entrecard’s Graham Langdon

MeEntrecard is a blogging service that has quickly emerged (or exploded) onto the scene over the last couple of months. Entrecard widgets are popping up on thousands of blogs around the blogosphere – including here at ProBlogger since they became a ProBlogger sponsor.

I get a lot of questions about Entrecard and how to use it most effectively to promote your blog – so I thought I’d approach Entrecard’s Graham Langdon with some of the more common questions. Please note that while Entrecard is a sponsor of ProBlogger this is not a paid post. It emerges out of your questions of a service that I know many of you are curious about and using.

One of the first questions that I get from readers most about Entrecard is – ‘what is it?’ – From what I can tell Entrecard has a number of features that bloggers love – how do you describe it?

Put simply, Entrecard is a free social advertising network for bloggers. Everyone knows that the 125×125 has become this semi-official “ad of the blogosphere.” What Entrecard allows you to do is :

  • Advertise your 125×125, for free, on any blog in our network
  • Pay with Entrecard Credits instead of real money
  • Earn Credits by visiting other blogs, and leaving your card for the owner (through the widget) much in the same way you would hand someone your regular business card
  • See 3D statistics of traffic from ad campaigns and from our site, as well as stats for cards given and received
  • The whole service is incredibly easy to use and intuitive once you give it a try

So far, Entrecard has been quite effective at sending traffic to members’ blogs. Imagine a user that has a free ad right here on ProBlogger for a day, as well as ads running on 10 small to medium sized blogs. The traffic benefits can be significant. And on top of the advertising network there is an active social network, complete with a forum, messaging system, and more, that our members are actively taking part in. Bloggers have great information to share with each other, and we’re happy that so many are choosing Entrecard as an outlet.

When you place a free ad on someone else’s blog, how long does it run for? Are there other ads in rotation?

When you place an ad one someone’s blog with Entrecard, it runs for a full 24 hours, solid, with no other ads in rotation.

Following is a screenshot of the Entrecard Dashboard:

Regdashboard

Where did the idea for Entrecard come from?

I’d have to say the gears started turning when I witnessed the massive launch of BlogRush. The take home message for me was that bloggers everywhere were craving a widget that could bring free traffic. My ensuing thought process went something like this: First, I thought of those fish-bowls in restaurants where you drop off your business card to win a free lunch. So I started thinking of a system where bloggers could drop their digital business cards to each other to earn some sort of reward. Then, I thought about how some “brick and mortar” businesses actually let other small businesses around town advertise their business card on their cashier counter, or on a window sill.

Once I translated this thought process to the world of blogging, I knew what I needed was a widget that could simultaneously serve as a way to not only exchange cards, but advertise other members cards. A Credit system, with varying cost to advertise based on the size and popularity of one’s blog, was the final piece of the puzzle, and thus, Entrecard was born!

You launched two months ago – how’s it been going so far? What milestones have you hit? Can you give us some insight into how many bloggers are using it and what benefits it’s bringing them?

Our launch has been nothing short of amazing so far. We’ve hit the following milestones:

  • Over 2,000 free ads are now placed daily through Entrecard.
  • Since launching, our members have exchanged over half a million cards with each other.
  • As of writing this, Entrecard proudly offers free advertising on 1700 unique blogs.
  • We’re now consistently ranking under under 2000 on Alexa (I hate to use the ‘”A” word) daily.
  • In the last 30 days, we’ve done over a million page views on our website.

In terms of benefits, reports are abound on Technorati and Google Blogsearch that bloggers are not just receiving significant traffic, but also an increase in comments, a boost in Alexa rank, and more RSS subscribers. Not bad for a free widget that takes up just a little more space than a 125×125! However, I will say that results vary depending on your level of involvement in the program.

What type of blogger will benefit most from it?

Without a doubt, the small to medium size blogger will see the most benefit from Entrecard. It is an excellent system especially for bloggers trying to attain their first 2000 RSS subscribers. It’s not the only system these bloggers should be using of course, but it will absolutely help. Most of our users report traffic of around 20 visits per day, and as many as 150 to 200 per day with particularly effective ad campaigning. While this amount of traffic may not be significant to some of the top bloggers, many bloggers would find themselves greatly benefited from this source of traffic.

Are there any restrictions, limitations, or guidelines for joining the Entrecard network?

Yes, we have a number of basic guidelines for Entrecard membership. We only allow blogs of reasonable quality into the network, so if you only have one post, or if your site is considered “spam” it will not be allowed in the network. We also only allow blogs written in English, though we hope to expand to facilitate all languages as soon as possible. Finally, you cannot have adult content on your blog.

We rely heavily on a flagging system, where users can flag any blog in the network that appear to be spam, offensive, or of poor quality. All these flags are reviewed promptly and proper action is always taken to keep Entrecard a high quality network. So far, this system has served us wonderfully, and has given an equal voice to everyone as to what they do and do not want to see in the Entrecard network.

What tips would you give bloggers who want to get the most out of Entrecard?

With Entrecard, you get out what you put in. So you’ll want to spend some time leaving your card for bloggers in your niche and in related niches to get them visiting your site. You can start buying as many ads as possible on related blogs. Finally, you can hold a contest on your blog and give away Entrecard Credits. This is becoming a very popular trend for our members, and provides a terrific incentive to get others commenting on your blog posts.

Another fairly large element that plays a role in your success with Entrecard is your blog’s content. Members with quality content, well written and useful articles with images, will find that Entrecard enhances their statistics more so than blogs with lesser quality content. And of course, blogs with terrible content simply get removed from our network. But if your content is good, simply participate as much as possible, and I can guarantee you’ll be happy with your results.

You’ve just opened a ‘marketplace’ (pictured below) – what’s this?

The blogger marketplace, which we call the Entrecard Shop, is the next step forward with the Credit economy we’re establishing. Cumulatively, our members are earning thousands of Credits every day, and while it’s nice that you can spend your Credits to advertise on over 1700 blogs, we have a bit of a larger vision.

So we’ve opened a shop where bloggers can buy and sell blogging related products and services for Credits. We have people selling exclusive WordPress themes, Blog reviews, SEO consultations, Blog makeovers, unused domain names, and more. The benefit for the seller is that it dramatically increases the amount of credits you earn, thus increasing your purchasing power as well. The benefit for the buyer is that now you can buy much, much more than network advertising with your Credits.

Ecshop

What is the most unique item available in the shop? What is the most useful?

I’d have to say that the most unique item in the shop is a Shakespearean Sonnet. A blogger, who recently enjoyed a class in Shakespeare, will write a sonnet about your blog for 50 credits, and post it on her blog. As for the most useful item, someone is selling a complete hosting package for your WordPress blog. This gives bloggers the opportunity to finally move off Blogspot or WordPress.com and onto their own hosted account, and pay with credits instead of money. I find it really satisfying to see such unique and useful items being sold in the Shop, which is only just a week old.

Are there any criticisms of Entrecard you would like to address?

Well the system isn’t perfect, and although we’d like everyone to read a full post and leave a comment before dropping their card, some people simply don’t. Some users will stop by your blog just to drop off their card, and then go off to the next one to rack up credits. Now this doesn’t include everyone; we have a lot of quality readers out there on Entrecard. In fact we’ve found that the majority of our users have reported discovering new blogs they now read regularly. But you could very well find, because of some chain droppers, that across all your Entrecard traffic, the average time spent on your site is slightly lower and the bounce rate slightly higher when compared to the rest of your traffic. Regardless, this is still real traffic and you still have the opportunity to command their attention when they stop by. And finally, even for the Entrecard members that do stay only just long enough to drop their card, you still earn a credit for each one of these “chain droppers,” which you can put towards advertising, graphic design for your blog, blog reviews, SEO consultations, hosting, and much much more in the Entrecard Shop.

The best thing our members can do to minimize the chain dropping, is to understand that this is not Entrecard’s intended use, and to really make an effort to read a post and leave a comment on blogs they visit while dropping cards.

Where do you hope to take Entrecard in the coming year? Do you have any more features planned that you can tell us about?
Over the next year, we’re going to expand the social networking features to include favorites, a news feed, and even more bells and whistles. We’re going to enhance the advertising network by adding greater control and analytics. Finally, we’re hoping to expand the marketplace to hundreds, if not thousands of items, and roll out a seller feedback system similar to eBay’s. By the end of the year, I plan on securing either an angel investment or venture capital. I’ve already had some interest from a few angel investors, but I’m looking for an investor who is well connected in an industry that would be of benefit. From the looks of things so far, Entrecard could become big. Very big.

Note from Darren: As a little companion post to this interview in the next day or two I’m going to do a little competition to give away my own Entrecard credits (there’s over 3000 of them). Stay tuned for how to win some of them for yourself to help promote your blog.