Monday, July 30, 2007

What I Think About Your Blogger Wanted Ad (i.e. Not Much)

If you want good quality responses to your "Blogger Wanted" advertisements, you have to write an advertisement that will attract good quality responses.

Here are a few problems with the advertisements I've seen so far:

Payment only in advertisement revenue

Imagine if you offered this to your graphic designer or programmer.

I don't mind earning salary plus commission, but commission-only sucks. Besides, you're asking me to earn a commission on writing about topics you choose, when I could be writing on my own blog about topics I choose, earning more, and not having to split the commission.

Long lists of (bad) topics

If your advertisement includes 50 different topics including every annoying celebrity, I'm not that interested. First of all, you're probably only paying commission. Second of all, I don't really want to blog about the life of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears for any length of time.

No company feeling

When I work for a company, I think people, boss, co-workers, contract. If I freelance, I think colleagues, editors, contract.

Your advertisement has to make me think that you're serious people to work for, and not simply casting about for a money making scheme. I want to work for and with dependable people with phone numbers. I don't need to become friends, but I want to establish a real person to person relationship.

No idea, period

Look, if you're going to hire a blogger, you should know how blogging works. Bloggers are not simply PR machines, and slapping a blog onto your site isn't going to automatically produce 1000 inlinks and 20,000 readers in a week. Especially if you want to micromanage the blogging content and have it all be about your company.


Hey! When Did I Become a Marketer?

It suddenly struck me as I was walking home this afternoon that I had shifted professions into the marketing profession.

I arranged two interviews today, one of which occurred while I was walking home. When I asked the person on the phone with whom I would be meeting, she said the marketing department. That's when it hit me.

I'm a marketer. Of course, I should have realized this.

Corporate blogging is about selling a brand and controlling the user conversation. I've even said so myself. It's just that I have been so wrapped up with the subject matter about which I would be blogging.

The subject matter about which you blog is entirely irrelevant. Blog about a new high tech doo dad, vacation in Europe, long distance phone service, or MTV. It doesn't make a difference. If you're being paid to blog about them, you're a marketer.

I've always kept track of the best in professional blogging and branding blogs to create my own blog. I knew that the latter were important to selling my blog. It just never occurred to me that that I was learning how to do this as a profession ... until I started doing it.

Good God! I've been a technical computer professional for 18 years! I'm going to have to start writing marketese! My soul! What will happen to my soul?!


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Story So Far

Three years ago I started blogging I became a technical writer instead of a web programmer. After three years of technical writing, I moved into professional blogging.

Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with technical writing. I simply found that most of my clients were extremely difficult to work with and most of what they wanted me to write was crap. Or, I would write, and no one would read it.

Furthermore, despite the fact that I had 14 previous years of technical knowledge before I began technical writing, I found that technical writers are treated as the low end of the food chain. Which is rather strange. Technical writers are the interface between your products and the user, even more so than your GUI, online help, or customer support. Sure you can use these three things to substitute for technical writing if you really need it, but it sure is a waste of time and money.


I left a technical writing position and applied for a programming job at company A, but when I showed up, I said that their company could use a blogger and I would prefer to do that. And they accepted.

Some people think that being a professional blogger means easy street. Yes, I'm finally doing work that I really enjoy. But I still have to work hard at it, and I'm being paid less for my time than a technical writer.

That's because company A didn't have a budget for a blogger, and therefore was willing to try me out only on a part time basis for half of a low salary.

In addition, company A didn't have any real expectations of what a blogger was supposed to do or how blogging actually works. I found myself being asked less than a day after the first post as to where all the traffic and increased viewers were.

After two weeks of this, company A came to realize that they weren't really interested in paying me for the slow ramp up over several months that blogging would accomplish, nor investing the several hundred or thousand dollars in a marketing campaign.

Furthermore, they weren't really interested in my writing about anything other than the great features of company A. Which, as any blogger will know, does not a popular blog make.

Still, writing daily about a company does have an important effect. Search engines pick this up and it keeps the company's name active in search results. Investors and reporters like this.

So they weren't interested in the traffic building aspects of blogging, only in the daily post about a feature on the site. This resulted in our reducing my working hours to only 1 hour a day.

While this was happening, I got more ads going on my personal site. I'm being paid about the same for both blogs: from company A for the company blog, and from ads for my private blog. Each about $250 - $400 a month.

To live in Israel, I need a minimum of around $2000 a month. $3000 is more like it. $4000 or $5000 is comfortable.

That means that I'm looking for more part time blogging opportunities which will fill in the other hours of my day. Figure 1 hour a day for company A, an hour for my personal blog, and that leaves me 6 to 8 hours for other companies. If I get 1 large assignment, or a few small assignments, earning around $1500 to $2500 a month, I'll be making a living, working hard, and enjoying myself.

But easy street? Certainly not. Not until I find myself writing a popular blog which gets so much ad income that I can work for only a few hours a day. I'm envious of those bloggers who can pull in $100 a day or more in ad income. I would have to change my topic niche to accomplish that.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Should a Corporate Blog Outlink?

One of the first issues I ran into with my first corporate blogging position was the issue of outlinking to other blogs in my niche.

On my personal blog, outlinking is a no-brainer. Aside from making your blog more valuable for your readers, when you outlink you get inlinks.

If someone is interested in one blog about board games, the odds are that they are interested in others, too. So long as I know that my content is quality, I'm not afraid of losing the readers to other, better bloggers.

The same theory should hold true for corporate blogs.

Firstly, when you outlink from a corporate blog, you get inlinks. That increases your page ranking and gets you traffic, not just to your blog, but to your site, if your site hosts your blog.

Secondly, when you outlink you provide service to your readers. That usually makes them return.

A corporate blog's job is not necessarily to promote the blog, but to promote the product or web site.

If your site relies on web traffic, the more you direct people to your site as opposed to letting them flit about on others, the more traffic. Then again, if your content isn't good, they won't stay on your site anyway. And if it is, they'll come back anyway.

If you outlink to a competitor, it's may be a sign of strength. Like the movie Miracle on 34th Street, when Macy's began directing customers to its competitors for products that Macy's didn't carry, sales at Macy's grew. People liked the friendliness and the service; they knew that they were going to leave satisfied, and that the company cared about them and not just some small transient sales.

But if you outlink to competitors, be extremely careful not to diss the competition - you'll look mean and desperate. On the other hand, you don't need to praise them up the wazoo, either.

If readers end up looking elsewhere for a similar product that you carry at around the same price, that's a lost sale. There's no point losing sales for no reason; let other sites do their own advertising.

Your decision as to whether or not to outlink, and if you do, how to do it, might be guided by legacy company policy. Outlinks may go through a filter or traffic analysis tool, or you may be required to (or want to) open outlinks is a new tab or window.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This blog is going to be about corporate blogging, a subject only sparsely covered in the blogosphere.

In particular, I have been a regular old blogger for over three years, and recently made the switch to being a professional corporate blogger. Which means: I get hired to blog for companies.

There are a number of differences between a standalone blog and a for-hire corporate blog:

  • You don't monetize a company blog.
  • You don't care how many readers you get or how many hits your blog gets. A corporate blog exists to increase traffic to your main website.
  • A corporate blog is used to control the conversation on the Internet. So that if someone has something good or bad to say, they have a place to say it.
  • A corporate blog is used to foster a community out of an already existing community, or to create a new community around a specific topic. You can't just pick any old niche or write linkbait on whatever you want.
  • There are trade secrets and legal repercussions to what you write.
  • You have to consider outlinks to other sites in your field - these are now not your compatriots but your competitors.
And many more, which I will discuss as I think about them.

In the meantime, welcome to the blog, enjoy, and say hello.


How I Became a Professional Blogger

Originally posted here.

I didn't really plan it, but I dreamed it.

1. First of all, when I started blogging I knew I had something to offer. One of my strengths is the ability to come up with new and creative ideas. Sometimes what I come up with falls flat, but I always have another three or four ideas waiting as a follow up.

Everyone has something to offer about something. Whatever you are good at or know about, other people will be interested in it. Worst comes to worst, by blogging you'll be practicing your writing and organizational skills. Even if you just do it for fun, like most people.

2. I picked a subject that I'm passionate about to begin with. I really do play games, and I really do evangelize about them. And I really believe the things I write about (at least at the time that I write them).

3. I wasn't afraid of failing, because I started from nothing: no audience, no readers, nothing to lose. When I got some readers, I thought: well, the worst that can happen is that I post something lame or offensive and I lose them all. In which case I'm no worse off then when I started.

4. I have lots of dreams, and only so much time to devote to them. In order to succeed with this one, it was necessary that I made blogging a daily priority. Especially at the beginning, when I didn't necessarily have anything to write, I wrote anyway. I scoured news and web sites. I made it a point of writing every day (at first, three times a week), regardless. Often, usually, about halfway through writing something, I realized that I finally had something to say. I then erased everything I had written and started over.

Sometimes the ideas only start flowing after the pen hits the paper; most people want it to be the other way around, but this doesn't work for me.

5. Since I wasn't getting paid for this, I had to justify the time spent to myself, to my wife and family. I had to fight adversity and answer questions like "why am I playing around on the computer?" Because I am laying the groundwork. I am spending the time now to get better at it, until one day I may be in a position that I will have enough experience and enough traffic, or be offered a blog position, so that I can quit my other jobs.

In the meantime, the time spent is no more wasteful than the time spent in school that you don't get paid for. It's education. It's experience. It's building habits and working through errors. Especially getting those errors out before I have a big readership, when failure becomes a bigger problem.

It was also a commitment; because even if only one other person is expecting me to write something, I feel a need to write for that person, money or no money.

6. I turned to the professionals: Problogger, Performancing, Gaping Void, Seth Godin, Copyblogger, Kathy Sierra, and so on. Some of these are specifically about blogging, while the others are about branding. Both are key. Professional blogging sites help you with the technical stuff: how to be a good blog citizen, how to network, how to optimize, how to write content in attractive ways. Branding/Marketing sites help you identify what you have to offer, how to connect to what people like to read, and how to tap into the creative process. There's an overlap between the two, of course.

7. Not only did I find myself in a good niche (board gaming), but I found things that weren't being covered in my niche and covered them. There are blogs with session reports and reviews about Eurogames, war games, Go and Chess, but basically none that cover all board gaming - which, by the way, is my interest. I collect and report on daily gaming news that nobody else reports. I cover game patents because nobody else does them. I write game poetry because, um, I'm crazy (but I like to do it, and few others do). I maintain an up-to-date blogroll like no one else does.

I also branched out into a few other subjects, when I found myself with something particularly unique or interesting to say (well, at least something that I found interesting, anyway).

8. Any person who has played a negotiation or trading game can tell you that you have to trade promiscuously to win. As such, I am promiscuous with my links. I link to all the hundreds of people that I love and read. If only 10% of them link back to me, thats still hundreds of people with one link (from me), and dozens of links back for me.

9. I maintained focus on my readers. I don't write for transient hits from Google or Digg. Not that I reject them, but I don't make that my focus. If my post isn't good enough for the regular readers, it's not good enough. On the other hand, my regular readers do get a wide range of topics covered.

I RSS full feed. Anyone who subscribes to my feed doesn't have to jump through hoops to get my content. I can count on them coming to my site a few times a year at the very least, which is a heck of a lot more than the other billion people on the internet. I'm not going to purposely annoy them.

I try not to annoy my readers with ads. I played around with ads and rejected most of them because they would annoy me if I went to read the site. I use only a small ad on the top. I use affiliate links to sites where I would also buy products, and which don't pop-up or interfere with the flow of text. I began writing reviews only of sites that I thought contained at least something that I would be interested in, anyway (and rejected many others).

Yes, it's a little extra work to tune ads properly and add all the affiliate links in my posts, but I got used to it. With little exception, I don't think I've annoyed my readers too much.

10. After I had experience in blogging - three years, now - I looked for the opportunities. There are blog positions advertised online, and there are companies that looked like they could use blogging help.

A. The direct results:

By post number 1000, I had made $75, which I gave back to my readers in the form of games. I'm now up to around $50 a month in Text Link Ads ($35), Google Ad-Sense ($12), and Amazon ($3).

Not very impressive, I admit. However ...

B. The indirect results:

I landed a professional blogging position at a company. I went in for a programming position and offered instead to be their company blogger. And they accepted.

I have had a game published by a publisher who is one my readers.

I've received dozens of free games to review.

My writing is getting better all the time.

I know hundreds of great people around the world.

I've had articles published in professional journals around the world. I've even been interviewed a few times on various subjects.

I know a lot about my field and interest.

I'm enjoying myself.

And you can do it to, if you really want to.


P.S. You may also want to read my Ten Lesser Known Secrets of Blogging.