She Travels the World, Blogs About It, and Earns $6k Per Month Doing It

“Don’t let what other travel bloggers are doing intimidate you – find your own way and your own story, and the rest will follow.”

It’s the glamorous life.

A part time travel blogger seeing the world, snapping photos, unexpected adventures, indulging in the local cuisine, and creating lifelong memories.

Picture this as your job and you get paid to write about your experiences.

For some, it’s the dream, and it sounds far out of reach.

Nowadays, it’s fairly common to see millennials living this “digital nomad” lifestyle.

Renegades with nothing to lose, who live and travel abroad while running their blogs and/or businesses online.

I’ve got a handful of friends that do it.

They don’t have kids. They don’t have a ton of possessions. They don’t have a house.

Really, it’s an easy decision for them to let go and start living their dream.

But, what about those who don’t want to pack up shop, unload all of their possessions, and become a permanent vagabond?

Is travel blogging still a possibility?

Amanda Williams - Part Time Travel Blogger at A Dangerous Business
Amanda Williams from A Dangerous Business

Enter Amanda Williams…

A small-town Ohio girl with a big vision to see the world.

Amanda caught the travel bug and started her blog in 2010 while working a full-time job for a newspaper.

She’s always been an ambitious traveler, but never so much to leave everything behind for a full-time travel lifestyle.

Never has she given up her normal life to travel, but she has been able to still visit 35 countries while being in school or working full-time.

“As much as I love traveling and having adventures, I also enjoy coming home to sleep in my own bed, drive my own car, and cuddle with my kitty.”

For Amanda, it’s been a slow passion fueled growth. It’s not about the money for her, but now she is earning a great income doing what most people can only dream.

She owns her time. She travels freely. She lives her passion. She inspires many others to do the same.

So, in today’s interview, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amanda Williams and bring you into the life of a travel blogger.

What is your claim to fame at “A Dangerous Business” and who is your typical reader?

I’m not sure that I’m even really “Internet famous,” but I suppose my claim to fame is that I’m not a full-time traveler. I’m not a digital nomad. I have a home base, and try to focus on writing about how the average person (you know, with a job and bills and maybe some debt) can fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle. And I absolutely practice what I preach.

Makeup of the Readers of Dangerous Business
Makeup of the Readers of Dangerous Business

My audience tends to skew towards female (70%, according to Google Analytics), which is probably because I myself am a woman writing about travel. I tend to draw an audience close to my own age, too, with 35% falling in the 25-34 age range, followed by 18-24 (24%) and 35-44 (14%),

Being able to travel the world and blog about it sounds like a pretty spectacular life. Are you living your dream? What are some of the not-so-glorious parts about being a travel blogger?

It definitely does not suck! And, most days, yes, I’m living my dream. Not only do I get to travel frequently, but I also get to be my own boss. I can write what I want on my blog and usually get to travel where I want, too, and tell the stories that stand out to me. I also get to choose which freelance/contract work to say yes or no to. For some people, that might *not* be the dream, but I’m happy with being able to work remotely (i.e. from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection), and to have the freedom to travel whenever I want.

But there are downsides. I’m way too connected most days – I spend much more than 8 hours a day working. And even though it usually doesn’t feel like work, I’m still working A LOT. I sometimes have to peel myself away from the blog or social media and actually be a real person (my boyfriend kind of gets mad when I ignore him for too long!).

A Dangerous Business Pics
Photos shot by Amanda from a few places she visited

There’s also the fact that I don’t really make a steady income. Some months I make a lot, and other months I struggle to reach the monthly income goal I’ve set for myself. It can get stressful when you never know exactly how much money you’ll be making each month.

Your philosophy is a little different than most. You speak from a perspective of not being a complete vagabond. In fact, when you first started, you told me that you were still working a job. How does one manage to work a job or have a family while being a travel blogger?

Yup, I started my blog when I was working full-time as a copy editor at a newspaper. And after that, I was blogging while going to school full-time to get my master’s degree (and working an assistantship to help pay for it). Last year, I was running my blog while also working 6-7 hours per day for a social media startup. It’s not easy to have a job AND try to run a successful blog – you have to prioritize and pay attention to your time management. But you know what? I found I was sometimes able to do that better when I was balancing work and blogging! Simply because I had my “work hours” and my “blogging hours,” and I was able to concentrate more fully on my blog when I had dedicated hours set aside for it.

What She's Packing
What She’s Packing

Were you always so adventurous? It seems like that you would always have to outdo yourself as a travel blogger. How do you keep your readers (and yourself) excited about new content?

I guess I’ve always had a bit of an adventurous streak, yes, and I’ve also always been a really independent person (which is probably why I’ve taken to solo travel so well). But as far as content goes, I never really think of my blog content from a business standpoint. I plan my travels based on where I actually want to go; based on what’s on my bucket list at any given point in time. And I think the simple fact that I’m so excited about my trips translates into my audience being excited about my trips.

It’s easy for someone to think “she’s so lucky” because you get to travel the world. Like something was handed to you. How would you respond to that and what was life like before starting the blog?

Well, here’s the thing: I AM lucky, in many respects. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that I was born in the US to a middle-class family with parents who have been really supportive; it would be easy for me to say, “I’ve worked hard for all of this and luck has nothing to do with it!” But I AM lucky to have an American passport and a background that allowed me to go to college and gain some of the skills I use today to run my blog/business.

But, having acknowledged the privilege that I was born with, I also have worked to get to where I am today. Before I started my blog, I knew NOTHING about blogging or SEO or marketing or running a business. I had to learn it all along the way, and learn how to experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Blogging is an easy thing to quit after a year or so, so I have worked hard to make it a viable career over the last six years. But it’s something someone else like me can do, too.

Nowadays, there quite a few travel blogs online. We are living in an incredible time with the internet allowing us these type of freedoms. How does one like you stay relevant with your audience and do you ever worry about competition?

I always say that people don’t follow blogs – they follow other PEOPLE. And, when you think about it that way, there’s nothing to worry about in terms of competition. Sure, another blogger could write about the same destination or tour as me. But no one can copy my voice or style or talk about my personal experiences the way I can. To stay relevant to my audience (and to hopefully attract even more of an audience), I simply have to keep being me. That sometimes means publishing more personal posts, and it ALWAYS means being upfront with my readers about anything I’ve received for free.

How much on average does your blog earn today and give us a breakdown of from where do you generate that income?

Right now, I’m earning anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 per month from my blog – some months I earn a little more, but that’s the average.

The largest chunk (probably about 40%) comes from the blog itself, usually from branded content (i.e. what we used to refer to as sponsored posts). I’m really picky about what branded content I will agree to run these days (my audience always comes first!!), but I usually sell 2-3 branded posts per month. I also sell other types of ads on my site – everything from mini reviews to the “Featured Blog” ads I sell to fellow travel bloggers for $75 per month.

Next (25%) would probably be affiliate income. I have Amazon affiliate links in some key posts on my site, and also, use Amazon CPM ads in a few posts. I also make a tiny bit each month from Booking.com’s affiliate program.

Amazon affiliate Feb 2016
February 2016 Income from Amazon Associates Program

The next largest income source (20%) comes from a travel blogging course I launched in November 2015 in conjunction with Travel Blog Success. The course teaches travel bloggers how to pitch and work with travel brands and tourism boards. I hope this will eventually make up a larger chunk of my income!

Lastly, I also do freelance writing, which accounts for the last 15% or so of my income. This is usually writing travel pieces for other websites, with the occasional social media updates thrown in, too.

Now, I understand that is just a portion of what you earn. There are a lot of perks for being a travel blogger, am I correct? What are some of the coolest perks you have received and what did you have to do for them?

There are perks. For example, I often work with tour companies and tourism boards when I travel, which usually covers at least 50% of my total travel costs. Some cool perks in the past year include two different trips to Norway, where I worked with Visit Norway and some local tourism boards; a Christmas market river cruise with Viking River Cruises; and a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada. In return for comped trips, I write about my adventures on my blog and social media – and this means working while I’m ON those trips, too.

If you had to put a value on those perks for 2015, how much would you estimate in total you received?

To be honest, I haven’t calculated it! It would be upwards of $15,000, though.

You are getting a ton of engagement on Instagram. What has been the impact of this on your blog traffic? 

I don’t get a lot of traffic from Instagram, but that’s not really why I like the platform. I use Instagram because it’s just another place to reach and grow a different subset of my audience.

What are your biggest traffic sources and how many unique visitors do you get on average per month?

My biggest traffic source is Google search, followed by social media (and my social media breakdown goes Pinterest, Facebook, and then Twitter). I get roughly 110,000-120,000 unique visitors per month to my blog.

GA traffic sources
Where Amanda Gets Her Blog Traffic

How big is your email subscriber list, how often do you email them, and what purpose does it server for you?

My email list isn’t nearly as big as it should be! I recently purged some inactive email addresses and have just under 2,000 total subscribers right now. I send out a monthly newsletter with exclusive content and links, and also give the option for people to get a weekly RSS roundup of new posts from my blog.

One of my goals for 2016 is to figure out ways to leverage and grow this list more with autoresponder series and opt-in incentives.

Take me into a typical day in the life of a travel blogger…

It’s honestly not that different from anyone else’s average workday! (The biggest difference is that I get to work from home – or from wherever in the world I happen to be.) I actually wrote a post about my day-to-day life.

What is the craziest thing that ever happened to you in your travels?

Hmmm, well I have plenty of crazy travel moments, but some of them were really only crazy at the time. Like the time a monkey jumped into my mini bus in Cambodia, or the time a tour guide bribed a border guard in Albania with 15 Euro and 3 cans of Red Bull to let our bus pass through without stopping to get our passports stamped.

The craziest thing I’ve *done* was probably a 134-meter bungee jump in New Zealand.

The craziest/scariest thing to happen to me was probably being driven off a small cliff on a mountainside in Iceland and honestly being convinced I was going to die.

How long did it take to make your first dollar? Is there an interesting story there?

No interesting story. It took me about a year of serious blogging before I started getting advertising offers. That was back in 2011 when the easiest way to make money on a blog was selling sponsored posts/links. It was easy money, and my first “paycheck” I think was for $100. That way of making money isn’t sustainable any longer, though, and I’d say it wasn’t until just the last year where I felt confident in going fully freelance and living off my blog/online income.

Let’s say someone who is reading this wants to become a travel blogger, any words of wisdom on how to do that when they are just starting off and without income?

First of all, I would say only do it if you’re passionate about both traveling AND writing. I don’t necessarily mean to dissuade people, but I know from experience that growing a travel blog to a point where it’s profitable takes a considerable amount of time and dedication – it’s more difficult to make money than if you’re blogging about, say, fashion or beauty or recipes. So step one is being really passionate about it.

Secondly, it’s all about building an audience in the beginning – this means producing quality content on a consistent basis, being active on social media, networking with other bloggers, and basically hustling to get your name out there. It’s definitely a time commitment, but you just have to stick with it!

What would you say to someone who wants to start a travel blog, but they feel like their travels are a lot less interesting compared to someone like you?

I would say don’t be silly! Every destination (even if it’s just your hometown) can be a travel destination for someone else. When I first started traveling, I didn’t travel very far or very often, and yet I made it work.

There’s that one saying that goes “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I think it applies to travel blogging, too. Don’t let what other travel bloggers are doing intimidate you – find your own way and your own story, and the rest will follow.

The design of your blog is gorgeous and unique. Is this something you did yourself? From where did the inspiration come?

My blog is currently just running on a paid theme called Simple Mag! I’m not very tech-savvy, and I definitely could never code a website myself. But thankfully so many other people CAN, which means there are some great pre-made themes out there. The header on my site (that gorgeous watercolor image) was made for me by Candace Rardon of The Great Affair, who is a talented artist.

The inspiration for my site (and name) comes from a Tolkien quote that goes: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might get swept off to.”

If you look closely at my header, you’ll find a further nod to Tolkien in the form of a hobbit hole. 🙂

You graduated college with a Journalism degree (and have the student loans to prove it). What is one thing that you learned from a journalism perspective that helps you as a blogger, that someone who doesn’t have your education likely would not know?

I think getting a degree in journalism helped me in a lot of ways. First, I learned how to edit and how to work on strict deadlines. It also helped me hone my writing voice. But writing for a blog is so different from “traditional” journalism. In news writing, a journalist is never supposed to let personal opinions/biases seep into a piece (unless it’s an opinion piece). But with blogging, that’s kind of the point!

I think, most of all, going to journalism school and working at a newspaper has given me an appreciation for how things “used to be.” I can appreciate the digital age of news and blogging, but I’ve also seen things from the “other side,” which I think gives me a unique perspective.

Also, when I want to pitch something more traditional to an online news outlet, I don’t have to go and learn how to conduct interviews or write feature stories. 🙂

If someone said “consistency is everything with content,” how would you respond?

I would say that’s correct, especially when you’re first starting out with a blog. When I decided to get serious about my blog back in 2010, I was posting 6-7 times per week.

As a blog grows, though, I think the consistency has to be more about voice and the quality of content. You have to make people want to keep coming back.

I like your “Stuff You Should Know About” posts. Let’s say as a new travel blogger, I don’t have the time to go on as many trips, what’s an idea for content I can write in between trips so that I can remain consistent?

I’m glad you asked – I actually wrote an entire post on this topic back when I was working my newspaper job and feeling a bit down because I wasn’t able to travel a lot.

Stuff You Should Know About
Amanda’s Stuff You Should Know About Series

A few things you can try include:

  • Spread out your posts (don’t be too hasty to write a ton of posts right after a big trip if you know you won’t be traveling again for a while)
  • Publish photo essays
  • Do interviews with other travelers
  • Put together collaborative posts (great way to work with fellow bloggers)
  • Write about places you’d like to go
  • Concentrate on more inspirational topics

And, lastly, remember that you can “travel” closer to home, too! You don’t always have to travel far away to find interesting stories.

What are three things that you are sure to do every time you publish a new blog post?

1. Proofread! I’m not perfect, so the occasional typo does make it through. But I always take the time to re-read my post at least once all the way through before hitting publish.

2. Create a Pinterest-friendly image to put inside the post. Pinterest is now my #1 social referrer, so I always want to make it as easy as possible for readers to pin my new posts.

3. Share on social media! I usually share to Facebook within 24 hours of publishing a new post, and schedule at least 4-5 tweets for the weeks following publication, too.

What blog post are you most proud of and why?

That’s almost impossible to say! I have a couple (like my NZ bucket list) that get a ton of Google and Pinterest traffic, and my big manifesto on solo female travel that I think is useful. But, writing-wise, I think this Cambodia post might be the one I’m most proud of.

When you began, how technically savvy were you and how steep was your learning curve? Any advice for people who get slowed down by the tech side of things?

When I began, I wasn’t very tech/Internet-savvy at all. I mean, I knew how to use the Internet and had Facebook and MySpace and all that. But I knew nothing about actually running a blog or doing SEO or building a social media following. I’ve learned it all along the way.

The biggest advice I would give to other not-so-tech-savvy people who want to start blogs is to do what you can, learn what you can’t, and don’t be afraid to ask for/pay for help when you need it. There are so many resources online to help you through a lot of the stuff that seems daunting at first. And if you can learn how to do your own SEO or Pinterest, that’s one more marketable skill you can put on a future resume.

Was there ever a point on this journey where you felt like giving up? If so, how did you break through?

You know what? I don’t think there was. But that’s partly because that I never started this with the intention of turning it into a career. It’s always been a labor of love.

Too many people I think start blogs assuming they will be able to make money right away. And when that’s not the case, they give up. I’ve always just wanted to write, and the fact that I can make money doing it is just an added bonus.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling, SmugMug for photo storage/hosting, and Edgar for Twitter scheduling/sharing.

One book that was pivotal to your success…

I don’t have one! (Really. I don’t like reading books about business or blogging!)

Who inspires you?

Other travel bloggers who are doing cool and innovative things inspire me all the time. I can name some specific ones if you want, but my list changes all the time!

What is one thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

Hmmm. I think one thing that bothers me is the fact that a lot of newer bloggers have a bit of a sense of entitlement. They assume that they deserve press trips and freelance gigs right away before they’ve even built up an audience. Not only is this annoying, but it’s the sort of attitude that will hurt travel blogging in the long run.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

Do what you love and what you want to do – make your stories real and authentic, and the audience will find you.

Also, don’t be afraid of or opposed to investing in your blog. If you want to treat it as a business, then that means you need to spend money on it. I can’t stand when I see bloggers complaining about paying for necessary services like web hosting or social media tools, and yet also trying to make money from their sites.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best online marketing tip of something that is working well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Don’t ever get comfortable just doing the same thing over and over. Things – hot topics, social media algorithms – change all the time, so the quicker you can be on top of those changes, the better off you’ll be.

If your whole online presence were deleted, and you had to build your blog audience rapidly from scratch, what would you do?

Probably the same thing I did when I was starting out: Produce kickass content, interact with other travel-lovers on social media, and make sure to let my personality and voice shine through in everything I do.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

I hope to continue traveling and writing about it! It’s as simple as that.

I also want to start taking into account the interests of more of my readers and hope to write an ebook sometime this year about how you can fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle.

Closing thoughts…

If you are starting a part time travel blog today, can you still make it?

It seems like the competition is huge.

Absolutely it is. There are millions of blogs online. But, why try to compete?

You are unique. You have a story to tell.

Just as there are certain people and styles that draw your attention, the way you tell the story is different.

Some people like to travel cheap, some living luxurious, some sustainable travel, some with family.

We like to hear the story from different perspectives. Stories in which we can relate.

So, while there are many people out there, no one can do it like you can.

If you would like to connect with Amanda, you can do so on her blogFacebook, and Instagram.


Want more interviews like these?

If you enjoyed this interview, please share this on Facebook. And let me know one “ah-ha” moment you had in the comments below. I love hearing your feedback.

And check out some of my other recent interviews…

How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

She’s Quitting Her Hospital Job to Become a Full-Time Food Blogger

Why One Woman Is Quitting Her Hospital Job to Become a Full-Time Food Blogger

“When you’re at your day job, and all you think about is how you are going to write your next post, it’s time to make a change.”

Lalaine had just made the most thrilling decision of her life.

Fifteen minutes prior to our phone call, she gathered the courage, walked into her bosses office, and set her resignation letter on the desk.

After deliberating over this decision for months, she couldn’t believe what she had just done.

I could sense the nervousness and excitement in her voice.

“Like, literally fifteen minutes ago?” I asked in disbelief.

Excitedly, she confirmed that this was it.

Like most, Lalaine works a comfortable day job. Her bills are covered. She’s got health insurance taken care of. Not a bad gig at all.

More specifically, she works as a dietary manager in a California hospital. You could say it aligns somewhat with her passion for food and cooking.

Passion that dates back to before she moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in the early 90’s.

Home cooked meals, she remembers, were what would bring her family closer together.

But, Lalaine is ready to throw away this cushy job in pursuit of her dream.

Sinch 2013, she’s been slowly building a food and recipe blog with Filipino-inspired recipes.

Literally, on a “whenever I find the time” basis while working her full-time job.

Fifteen minutes here. One hour there.

Exchanging parties with friends for cooking, snapping photos, and uploading recipes to her blog.

Most being an uphill battle, as she had zero tech experience and it was only made possible with the help of her daughter.

However, this is not your typical food blog.

Lalaine incorporates unreserved life stories into her recipes. She feels that people will make these meals in their home and share with their families, so letting people into her life and kitchen was only natural for her.

And this formula has worked very well.

Her income exceeded $8,000 in December 2015 alone.

A passion project that is now earning more than her full-time salary.

Now, this is NOT a story of a blogger striking it rich and making millions online. You can find these stories anywhere (and frankly, those stories are often difficult to relate to).

This is a story of one woman investing every waking moment outside her full-time job into her passion.

Leaving her in a position that most people dream of…

Should she choose comfortability and security and stay with her job, or give it all up for passion and inspiration?

To understand her logic, you must get into her head.

If she could see these returns just staying up late and on weekends working on this, what would be the return with all of her energy invested into her passion?

Lalaine Manalo Kawaling Pinoy - LearnToBlog.com
Lalaine Manalo at her “day job” as a hospital dietary manager

Clearly there are many variables at play, and there is no easy way to predict that.

One thing is certain with Lalaine…

She doesn’t want to live asking herself “What if…?”.

As one door closes, another door opens.

This is the story of Lalaine Manalo and her journey to become a full-time food blogger.

You publish a food blog called Kawaling Pinoy. Can you explain what your blog is about and who is it that reads your blog?

My niche is Filipino and Asian-inspired recipes. Although 25% of visits come from the Philippines, my target audience is Filipinos who work or live overseas such as in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

What is the meaning of the “Kawaling Pinoy name?

Kawaling Pinoy means “Filipino cooking pot.”

So basically, you get to cook amazing food, eat it, write about it, and you get paid to do so? Is this the life of a food blogger?

Cooking, eating and writing about food are just a small percentage of the work involved in maintaining a food blog. I spend a huge amount of time connecting with my readers via answering emails and comments, and participating in groups, share threads and social media to promote my content.

Why do you love cooking so much?

lalainekitchen
Lalaine Working In The Kitchen

My mom was not a very good cook, but I always went to school with a home cooked packed lunch. It was a “must” when I was growing up that everyone in the family sat down to dinner together every day. I guess I grew up associating food to showing love and care.

You built this blog all while working full-time as a dietary manager at a hospital and raising a daughter through college. How did you find the time to work on your blog?

I cook and take photos on weekends when I am off to take advantage of natural light. The rest of the week, I am up till the crack of dawn writing my blog posts, maintaining my social media accounts, connecting with my readers via answering emails, comments.

I definitely missed a lot of parties in the last three years, especially during weekends when happenings happen. Not being able to cook one Saturday would have meant not having content to post for the coming week. It’s sweat and sacrifice I don’t quite mind as I really enjoy the whole process. Of course, it also helped that when I started my food blogs, my daughter was already in college and was busy pursuing her own life to need me as much.

It’s sweat and sacrifice I don’t quite mind as I really enjoy the whole process. Of course, it also helped that when I started my food blogs, my daughter was already in college and was busy pursuing her own life to need me as much.

The day we spoke on the phone you told me you just placed your resignation letter on your bosses desk to quit your job and blog full-time. What was that experience like for you?

I was scared as heck yet super excited! I mulled and mulled and mulled again over the decision for many months. I’ve worked for a company all my adult life, and I was (and still am) worried about letting go of the cushion a regular paycheck provided me. The advice of well-meaning family and friends was for me wait a little longer before making the leap, but I found it harder and harder every day to go to work with enthusiasm.

When you’re at your day job, and all you think about is how you are going to write your next post, it’s time to make a change. Up to the last second, before I handed my boss my resignation letter, I was questioning in my head the big step I was making. Yet the minute I walked out of her door, I felt so liberated.

Whatever happens from this point forward is all up to me.

How much on average does your blog earn today and give us a breakdown of the sources of that income?

Other than December when I made my all-time high of $8000 plus, I average about $4000 to $4600 a month. 100% of my income comes from display ads.

Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: BlogHer Publishing Network (1/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: BlogHer Publishing Network (1/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: The Blog Network (2/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: The Blog Network (2/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December Earnings: Swoop Ad Network (3/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December Earnings: Swoop Ad Network (3/3)

When you say display ads, can you give a little more detail to what this means? Whose ads do you display and how did you get started with them?

The display ads will be the banner ads that show on my sidebar, header and in posts. They’re a combination of CPC and CPM. I am part of two major ad networks, The Blogger Network and Blogher and they take care of the backend stuff for me for a split of the revenue.

You’ve incorporated your family into your food blog. I find that very interesting that you talk about your daughter and ex-husband. What made you decide to do this?

People can go online and find 100 versions of a recipe. I just thought I can set my food blog apart by having a “person” behind it and not a “cookbook.”

How does it feel that your most successful article is about a recipe that you got from your ex-husband? That article alone probably has made you thousands of dollars!

Funny because when I had my now-defunct blog in 2007 and I first shared that leche flan recipe, my ex-husband and I were still “happily” married so the old article was all warm and fuzzy. When I got into food blogging again in 2013 and had to share the recipe on the new blog, I was still reeling from the divorce and, admittedly, still bitter about his infidelity.

KawalingPinoy_com_Leche_Flan__the_Most_Popular_Post
KawalingPinoy.com Leche Flan Recipe — the Most Popular Post

I kinda just wrote my heart out, not thinking or considering how readers will take it. I was basically writing for myself and being true to how I felt at that time. It’s amazing how the article became instrumental to the growth of my blog. It’s my most viewed, most commented and most shared recipe. It brings the most traffic every day primarily because Kawaling Pinoy currently ranks number #1 for that recipe on Google search. Victory for the scorned woman!

Can you tell me about your experience in moving to the United States with your family in 1990? Was there a language barrier for you? How have your experiences in raising a family and moving to a new country helped you in the success with your blog?

English is actually taught as a second language in the Philippines. It’s the form of instruction in our school system and that helped a lot in my having a blog in English. I still struggle, though, and I have to go back and edit my posts many times because I would use “can” when it should have been “could” or “that” instead of “which.” etc.

I never really learned how to cook in the Philippines. I grew up with house help preparing our meals, which is the norm in the Philippines. I had to teach myself how to cook because you can only have so much Big Macs in your lifetime. Managing my own household helped with the blog because I share recipes my family have personally tried and enjoyed. I write about my own experiences, trial and errors in the kitchen, and whatever tips and tricks that worked for me.

You do something on your blog called “income reports” where you disclose the results you are creating with your blog. You say that you want it to serve as an inspiration to fellow “kababayans” (Tagalog word that means fellow Filipino, countryman, or town mate). Why is this important to you?

I’ve been awesomely blessed through my cooking blog. To this very minute as I type this, I still can’t believe Kawaling Pinoy has grown to a point where I can quit my job and carve my own path. My monthly giveaways and income reports are my way of giving back to the people (my readers) who support me. How I see it, there are thousands of cooking blogs out there and yet they choose to visit mine. And that is a big deal for me. It’s humbling to know I have inspired a few of my kababayans to follow their passion and start their own blogs.

Some people when they start blogging struggle to find their voice. Some are not confident in their writing ability or worry about being perfect. You’ve clearly found your voice, and you know exactly who you are speaking to with your blog. But, was there ever a time where you were challenged about how your content would be received?

During the first few months of my blog, writing a post took forever and a day. I wanted, as you said, to be perfect. When I finally decided to relax and enjoy the process, pulling the article together became a lot easier. I write on my blog like how I would write to my closest friend and this seem to connect better with my audience. I try to proofread my posts as much as I can. I think the quality of writing is very important in building credibility.

Without any technical experience, how steep was the learning curve for you? How did you learn how to do everything you do online and what was your motivation?

I started blogging not knowing what a blog was! I was lucky that my then-16-year-old daughter took a few classes in school on web design and Photoshop (2007 was the heyday of Myspace so she was into making banners etc) and she taught me a lot. Although she was a great help, I had to learn fast (through reading, researching) because she charged too much hahaha. Also, it was kind of difficult to ask her to edit my photos in Photoshop after I just grounded her.

One thing I realized, you can’t be the master of all trades. Anything beyond my skills, I just outsource. For example, I spent months trying to figure out how to make an ebook. It’s time I could have used developing a recipe or answering a reader’s email. Eventually, I decided to save myself the grief and hired somebody to make the ecookbook (digital cookbook) for me. $180 for a 20-page ecookbook is nothing to sneeze at but so worth the investment. Outsourcing the ecookbook freed me to work on what I am good at, which is cooking!

What is the hardest part about what you do as a blogger?

Hard to believe as I talk too much but I am actually painfully shy. I am the person you find in a party sitting in a corner watching everybody dance. The hardest part of blogging for me is connecting and maintaining relationships with other bloggers. I have a handful of blogs I visit on a daily basis but I never leave comments because I am
embarrassed.

Where do you come up with your recipes? Do you have any particular process you go through before publishing them?

Inspirations come from memories of food I enjoyed growing up, from cookbooks, other blogs in my niche, Pinterest, Facebook. I call my mother a lot for ideas. One of my best ways of learning a new dish: I go to the market every week for groceries. I spend a good few hours strolling the aisles and talking with fellow shoppers about their favorite recipes and prep tips. We have a Mexican grocery a few blocks from our house and I learned at least a dozen recipes just from asking other customers.

Have you ever had a recipe that just bombed with your community?

Yes, BBQ pork ears. And this was a recipe I thought was going to be insanely popular.

How have you grown as a person through your blog?

Oh wow! Great question. My blog created a brand new me and that is without exaggeration. For one thing, my blog was launched during a dark age in my life. I was newly-divorced and at the same time, empty nesting as my daughter was in college and was more into spending time with friends than with mom. After 20 plus years doing the same type of job, I was also getting burnt out at work but was afraid to make a change. My blogs gave me something to be excited about again. They sort of re-purposed me.

If someone told you that there is way too much competition with food blogs, and you are just lucky because you started early, what would you say?

I do believe there is an element of luck involved but I don’t agree about “too much competition” hindering the growth or success of a food blog. I had my first blog in 2007 when there was but a handful of food blogs and that first blog never saw more than 10,000 page views in its two-year existence. Kawaling Pinoy launched in 2013 with thousands of blogs already before it (and after it) and yet I’ve had better success with it than my 2007 blog that had far less competition.

Behind the Scenes of a Kawaling Pinoy Photo Shoot
Behind the Scenes of a Kawaling Pinoy Photo Shoot

What is your secret to taking nice images for your recipes?

I always take pictures with natural light. I don’t shoot after 2:30 PM as I am not yet adept at working my camera in different light settings. I invested on macro lens, and bought and read a good number of food photography books. I am still struggling with the food photography but much better than when I first started.

What is one thing every food blogger must be doing?

Making sure the recipes are solid. There is nothing more aggravating than spending money and time on a recipe that doesn’t work.

What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a blogger?

Being able to own my own business!

Does anyone ever reach out to you to send you products to promote or review? If so, what kind of things have you gotten for free?

I’ve been offered a few items but I had to refuse each time. I want to promote products I believe in. I would be very uncomfortable giving a negative review to somebody who just gave me a free product so I would just end up lying, claiming I loved the product when I didn’t.

With around one million views on your blog each month, can you give us a breakdown of where your traffic comes from?

75% of my traffic comes from search (Google) and the other 25% are social referral and direct traffic.

With 75% of your traffic coming from search, how did you learn to optimize each post, and what is your process for SEO each time you publish a new post?

I am not really technically inclined and don’t know much about SEO optimization. I just try to write as engaging as possible and provide useful content. However, I do use Yoast (WordPress) SEO plug-in where I add a focus keyword and meta description for my posts.

kp
Kawaling Pinoy Regularly Has Over 900,000 Page Views Per Month

What did you do to get traffic when you first started?

Looking back, I think my initial growth in traffic was more of a stroke of luck than anything. I launched my main blog (Onion Rings and Things) in October 2012, and Kawaling Pinoy was just an afterthought. Bluehost (the hosting I started with) allows as many domains as you can add in the hosting plan I had so I thought since it wouldn’t cost me anymore than one, I might as well have two blogs.

I was busy building content on Onion Rings and Things, so I kind of pushed Kawaling Pinoy to the sidelines for about 3 to 4 months after I launched in January 2013 with about 4 to 5 recipes. However, I noticed that the 4 to 5 recipes I had ranked on the first page of Google search and were bringing in traffic (I was up 10K page views in May from 53 in January). The site was growing faster than the other blog I was focusing my energy on and inspired by the growth, I diverted my focus and built on Kawaling Pinoy instead. I posted regularly, 2 to 4 recipes a week.

Leche Flan Recipe --LearnToBlog
Leche Flan Recipe Ranking #1 On Google

In June 2013, I started doing my monthly giveaways even though I was barely making enough to cover the costs of maintaining the blogs. I tried Pinterest but realized my type of recipes don’t do well on this social platform because my target audience is more active on Facebook. In July 2013, I had less than 50 likes on my Facebook page. I invested on Facebook ads and had them running until I hit 5k. It cost me about $100 to $150 but worth the investment. It is easier to grow when you have 5000 people sharing and liking your content than 50. Also, I thought a higher number of likes gave my Facebook page validation. People are more likely to “like” a page with 5K likes than 50. My growth from 5K to 30k has been organic.

How big is your email subscriber list, how often do you email them, and what do you use it for?

I have 4,908 email subscribers. I use my mailing list mainly to notify subscribers of fresh content on the site. I have set it up to blog broadcasts, email is sent I soon as I publish a new post. I also set up a follow up series, first one is sent out immediately after they confirm, with link to download the ebook plus tips on how to navigate my site; the second goes out when they’ve been subscribed for 6 months with suggestions on popular recipes; and last one after one year thanking them for their continued support.

How long did it take to make your first dollar? Is there an interesting story there?

During my first months, I was making .28 cents to $2 every day and I was very excited. Then one day a bigger page shared one of my recipes and I had more than usual traffic. I made $26 in Google Adsense in one day and it confirmed to me that it is possible to make a living blogging. $4,500, which was my goal amount, felt insurmountable so I divided it to 30 days. $150 a day was less daunting.

If someone said “consistency is everything with content,” how would you respond?

I can’t agree more! There was this blog I used to read regularly but her new posts were sporadic, often weeks from the last. I would visit her blog and there will be no posts for days so I just stopped. After 6 months, I received an email update about her recent post and for a second I thought the email was spam because I forgot all about her blog! I mean, it’s like having guests. Why would people visit your house when you’re not always home? Why would they drop by to see you when they don’t know if or when you’ll be there?

What blog post are you most proud of and why?

Ginisang Munggo with Sotanghon. I wrote this a few months after the leche flan and I discussed in detail about my finding out my ex had a child with another woman during our marriage. I was writing and it suddenly hit me, I was no longer hurting! I realized by forgiving, I have devoid that person the power to hurt me.

Where do you see the future of food blogging heading?

I see the start of more new food blogs. Consumers will be buying less and less cookbooks, and food blogs will replace these magazines and cookbooks as their go-to source for dinner inspirations.

Was there ever a point in this journey where you felt like giving up? If so, how did you break through?

I don’t think there was a moment where I felt like giving up because I was very fortunate to see consistent growth in traffic and income year to year. Also, I really enjoy blogging and the whole process doesn’t feel like work.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

Photoshop, Tailwind, Canva

One book that was pivotal to your success…

Crush it! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk

Who inspires you?

My mother. She’s the strongest woman I know.

What is one thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

Other sites copying and pasting recipes word for word and using photos without credit. I wish they understand the amount of work involved.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

The financial reward during the first months (or years) are so pitiful, most blogs fold on their first year. You gotta love it, live it and be passionate about it because your only compensation on the first few years would be the joy of doing what you love it.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best online marketing tip of something that is working really well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Be yourself.

If everything was taken from you and you had to rapidly build your blog from scratch, what would you do to build an audience?

Build my Facebook page.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

I am envisioning my blog to be the ultimate resource for Filipino recipes. I am working to include kitchen tips and cool tools. I am looking into including videos as well.

Closing thoughts from the editor…

One of the biggest stories I hear people say is that they don’t have the time.

Dig a little deeper and what I find that they are really saying is that they are not excited enough about what they are doing to find the time.

We make time for the things that we love.

Lalaine had a choice.

She could have come home from work and watched TV or scrolled Facebook on her phone. Instead, she chose herself. She chose her dream.

She didn’t get stuck on the idea that she was only making pennies when she first started. She celebrated every moment of it.

Without the pressure, she was able to have fun with it and fully express herself.

We’ve all heard the saying…

“Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life.”

The key is finding and focusing on that one thing and giving it your all.

If you would like to connect with Lalaine and follow her journey, you can do so at her blog and over on Facebook.


Want more interviews like these?

Your feedback is essential for me to keep this going.

Let me know one “ah-ha” moment you had in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this interview, please help me by sharing this on Facebook.

MORE INTERVIEWS: How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

“I heard many times, from many people, and even from those who love me and meant well, that my ornament business was cute, and could be a great little side income, but that it might be time for me to get a real job.”

Adversity, Ambition, and… Ornaments?

Three words that make up Staci Ann Lowry. On the surface, you will probably wonder, “How does one build a $20,000 per month blog about ornaments?” Of all things. That was my first thought.

When you dig a little deeper, you will see that Staci’s success was not by accident. A former stay-at-home mom with an ornament hobby was at a turning point in her life. Life changed in an instant when tragedy struck her family.

It was at this moment she was forced to make a decision. Go to work or see her hobby as an opportunity. With almost no tech experience and driven by the hunger for providing for her family, Staci made her decision and it paid off.

This little crafting hobby into a bustling business that educates women across the globe and allows them to express their creative ability through beautiful hand-crafted ornaments.

In this interview, I get to bring you into the life of the Ornament Girl and give you an exclusive look at how her blog propelled her to success.

Are you ready? Let’s go…

Blogger and Entrepreneur Staci Ann Lowry a.k.a. The Ornament Girl
Blogger and Entrepreneur Staci Ann Lowry a.k.a. The Ornament Girl

Who is the Ornament Girl and what is your claim to fame?

I sell handmade quilted ornaments, “make your own” kits, and pattern eBooks. I have a website/blog where I share ideas, tools, tutorials, and inspiration for other crafters and quilters to make their own (or buy mine if they aren’t crafty themselves).

So, tell me the story behind you and making ornaments…

I have always been into being crafty and making things, but making my Christmas ornaments has been something I’ve stuck with since I was a teenager. I learned how to make them from my mom when I was about 15 or so, and I’ve been making them ever since.

Take me back to life before earning a living online. What was it like and why did you decide to start this blog?

Before I started online, I was a stay-at-home mom. My husband was a Marine, and so between moving around, and having 2 kids, pursuing my own “normal” career was hard. I occasionally held a few part-time jobs here and there, but that was about it.

One year I wanted to try and make a little extra money for Christmas, so I listed a few things for sale on eBay. I was hooked on the idea of making money online from the moment I made the first sale (an old pair of jeans). I decided to list a couple of of my handmade ornaments up for auction, with no clue what to expect. During the first round, I had zero bids. I decided to try one more time though, and this time, I actually sold them. The final bid for each of them was only around $6 or 7 dollars, but I was ecstatic. This was in the Fall, so for the next 2 months or so, I sold as many as I was able to make, but as soon as Christmas came and went, my sales went completely down the tubes.

Thats when I started realizing that if I wanted to sell more of my ornaments, I was going to have to try and grow outside of eBay, and I decided I wanted my own website. I built the first version of my site in Notepad using basic HTML that I’d pieced together and taught myself from searching Google. I’d be super embarrassed to see the site now – it was ugly. I also started a little blog on Blogspot (that was just as ugly). 🙂

At that point, making sales was still a hit or miss thing, and the “business” was really more of a hobby. I would work on my website or learn about SEO and internet marketing when I had some free time, but since my hubby was the breadwinner, I didn’t really have anything pushing me to work harder at it. Aside from that, the handmade market was getting bigger and busier every day, and I started to feel like I was getting lost in all the noise. It really seemed like it was getting impossible to stand out online.

Then, a short time after getting out of the Marines, my husband had a motorcycle accident and our lives changed forever. I was suddenly a widow with 2 young kids and no job.

Until then, being a hobby crafter had been okay. It really hadn’t mattered all that much if I made money or didn’t. But, once I was faced with the need to make a living, on my own, and possibly having to put my grieving kids into daycare so that I could get a “real” job….that’s when I got serious about turning my ornament business into my real job.

I started devouring everything I could find about online marketing, and I started hearing a lot about a new buzzphrase, “content marketing”. The more I learned about it, the more I knew it was time to get off of Blogspot and move over to WordPress. That was when my blog became a primary focus, and it has been ever since.

What is the typical day in the life of an ornament blogger? (your first 3 months compared to today)

The first few months of blogging were so frustrating because, even though it felt like I was spending so much time on it, no one was actually seeing it. I would spend what seemed like forever on a new post, hit publish, just to be the only one reading it. And, since I didn’t really know what to blog about, I was treating it like it was my diary. I’d post things like pictures of my kids or the new little tomato bud that had sprouted on my tomato plant. I was afraid to post only about ornament-related stuff, because I thought that would be too boring, no one would care, or even that I would seem too “sales-y”

Over time, I figured out:

1. The point of my blog was not just to write about whatever struck my fancy – it was to attract potential customers. In order to attract people who like ornaments, I needed to post about ornaments…not tomato plants.

2. The right audience for my ornaments would not find a blog about ornaments boring or sales-y at all, and they’d actually appreciate it.

Now when I post on my blog, I always have an intention… for example, if a particular occasion or holiday is coming up, I will start posting ornament ideas relating to it, and I add in any links to patterns or products wherever it would just naturally occur. I also re-post old content if it’s relevant.

How to Build a Craft Blog -- Start with Great Content

I try to make sure every post gets as much mileage as possible. If it’s something I think could be relevant all year, I add it to my autoresponder and I put it in my marketing calendar to re-share on my Facebook page throughout the year. If it’s a particularly successful post, I add it to my list of popular articles in my sidebar so that new people will be able to find it easier.

How much on average does your blog earn today and what is a breakdown of where that income comes from?

Right now, most of my income is coming from the sales of my ornaments, kits, and patterns. On an average day, I sell between $100-200 in patterns and products from my blog, and leading up to a holiday, sales will reach $500-600 a day or more. I occasionally do promotions (I don’t do sales though), where I will offer a special eBook bundle or introduce a new pattern. For example, I did a special bundle for 2 days in December, and sold a little over $10K.

I also started a monthly ornament kit club back in the fall of 2015, and we now have over 800 members. I launch an opening day for the club on the 1st of each month and allow in about 100 or so new members as I’m able. The club membership is up to about 17K per month in revenue. At the rate that it’s growing, my goal is to reach 2,000 members by December, 2016.

Sales Report from the Ornament Girl

I also have a small income stream from affiliate marketing. I include affiliate links inside all of my tutorials, both in my eBooks and on my blog, and that usually brings in between $500-1500 a month, depending on what time of the year it is. I affiliate mostly for Amazon because they carry so many of the craft supplies I recommend (and I actually do buy a lot from Amazon!), but I’d like to add more affiliations this year and increase my income from this.

Looking at your site, you ornaments are stunning. I never knew these hand crafted ornaments existed. What kind of shift was required from you to transition from the “artist role” to teaching people to replicate your creations?

It took me way too long to make this shift! I was so afraid that I would put myself out of business if I began sharing all my “secrets”. More and more though, I could see that the landscape of internet marketing was moving more towards teaching, and that I would be putting myself out of business anyway if I didn’t overcome this fear.

When I finally got over myself and offered my first eBook for sale, I started seeing a return right away… not just income-wise, but in a much faster growth of my following. I have never regretted it. The more I share, the more the business grows.

You offer a monthly ornament kit club. How did you start sourcing the materials for this?

When I first began the monthly club, I was still buying materials locally. After the first month, and once I saw the demand, I realized I needed a better way.. not just so I could get things cheaper, but because it was really hard to find the amounts of fabrics, etc, that I would need in order to fulfill so many orders.

The first 3 months were hard, because I had to source from all over the place to get enough of a particular fabric or material, and buying wholesale means you have to order very far (sometimes 6 months) in advance. So, in the beginning, I had to not only order for the next couple months, but I had to start placing my wholesale orders for the rest of the year.

It was a little bit stressful during those first few months, trying to plan ahead for the entire year, and trying to estimate accordingly for how many members I would get each month. It is getting easier now though that I am 5 months in and settling into a routine.

When you originally launched, did you pre-sell it first before you sourced the materials?

I did not pre-sell, other than announce about a week or so on my blog that I would be starting the club. I just planned a kit, got as much of the material as I could get my hands on, and made as many kits as I could for that first month (which was about 320 I believe). Once I launched, they sold out in about 5 hours.

How long does it take you each month to prepare the kits to mail out? Are you able to get your kids involved in the process?

It is starting to take quite a long time. It probably takes a good 2 weeks for me to make everything. It also takes me about a day and a half to photograph and write the eBook instructions. My kids and boyfriend have been help me with a LOT, (putting together kits, shipping, etc) but it’s beginning to be too much for us to do ourselves and still have any kind of life. I am currently looking for someone to start as soon as possible, to help me with production.

How long did it take you to start making money? Was it a slow growth thing or did your income immediately spike?

Life at the Ornament Factory
Life at the Ornament Factory

It was very slow, and looking back now, I see so many things I could have done to speed it up. My income initially spiked once I really put a focus on content marketing and my blog began to start coming up in the search engines. I noticed that a few of my tutorial posts in particular were getting lots of traffic from Google, and so I started focusing on doing even more posts like those. I also began noticing a lot of my blog’s photos & images were bringing traffic from both Google and Pinterest.

But, even when sales were great, and I couldn’t seem to make my ornaments fast enough to keep up with demand, I was still completely limited by how much I could physically produce. My income spiked again when I began offering my patterns. I was finally able to sell an unlimited amount of something without creating more and work for myself.

And finally, things spiked again last year when I started doing Facebook ads. I actually don’t “sell” in my ads, but I do try to bring people back to my blog, where I can introduce them to my brand, and hopefully get them to sign up for my email list.

Now, I’m seeing growth happen exponentially. The beginning was so slow and it seemed like I was going nowhere, but once I began to gain traction, it’s been like a snowball ever since.

Did you have a background with technology and building websites, or was there a learning curve for you? What was that like?

I have zero background with technology. In fact, when I started on eBay, I had never even uploaded a photo online. I messed up my poor website so many times… everything from deleting every single image from my cPanel in one fell swoop, to completely crashing the entire site and having to re-upload everything from scratch.[pullquote cite=”Staci Ann Lowery” type=”right”]If a slightly ditzy, right-brained crafter-type can build one, anyone can.[/pullquote]

However, with all of that being said… whenever someone says, “I could never build my own website”, I adamantly disagree. If a slightly ditzy, right-brained crafter-type can build one, anyone can. And, it is so much easier now than it was a few years ago.

I learned from Googling everything, watching videos and webinars, reading books, and most of all trial and error. I also joined several paid courses (including Learn To Blog) and I’m still in a few, because things change all the time, and I also love learning new ways to do things.

Your content marketing strategy when you started, what did that look like?

When I started, I didn’t have a strategy at all. I would blog about whatever I could think of and it was terrible. But, looking back, I think it was necessary in order for me to find my voice and discover what worked for my audience, and what didn’t.

How did you get traffic to your blog when you first started?

Getting traffic was an entirely different thing then than it is now. Social media didn’t exist as it does now, and getting found online was all about coming up in the first 5 results of Google. So, that was what I focused on – getting found for as many keywords as possible relating to handmade ornaments. The very first online “course” I ever joined was a Yahoo group about SEO. (I actually learned tons from that! I still do a little bit of search engine optimizing on every post and page of my site, even though so many people insist that SEO is dead.)

Traffic report from the Ornament Girl

Your email subscriber list. How big is your email subscriber list? How do people get on it? How often do you email them? And what do you use it for?

My main email list has about 16,000 subscribers. I’ve had the list for a long time, but up until about 2 years or so, I only had a simple form on my site that said: “Sign up for updates!” I definitely didn’t get very many subscribers that way. Now, I give away an ornament pattern, and that has been so much more effective.

She's accumulated almost 16,000 subscribers

I try to email once a week (and would like to email even more than that), but I sometimes have a hard time sticking to it. I feel that I am leaving potential sales on the table by not emailing more often, and it’s something I’d like to work on more throughout this year. I’d like to do more segmenting too, between different types of customers, etc. I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about that though!

I do have an autoresponder with a set of emails that go out once a week when someone first subscribes.

If someone reading this has a crafting blog, what are some things they absolutely should be doing?

You must be taking great photographs. You must be teaching and inspiring. You absolutely must not be simply jamming Etsy listings down people’s throats every day.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best blogging tip of something that is working really well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Oh wow… huge question! So, I have a boring answer to this, and that’s to stop trying to find the best strategy… just get busy blogging. I think searching for the “best” strategy is just another function of perfectionism, which in turn just stands in the way of action. Taking action is what opens the doors, teaches you what works for your market and what doesn’t, allows you to find your voice, and helps you grow.

Was there ever a point on this journey where you felt like giving up?

Absolutely. I heard many times, from many people, and even from those who love me and meant well, that my ornament business was cute, and could be a great little side income, but that it might be time for me to get a real job.

Featured in a magazine

To tell the truth, though, for a long time it was ME who didn’t truly believe that I could ever make real money selling ornaments year round, and that held me back for quite awhile. When I finally made the concrete decision that “yes. I AM going to be successful at this”.. that is when things began falling into place.

What motivates you to keep doing this?

I just genuinely love it. I work a lot of hours lately, but I look forward to it. I get to make stuff and be creative, and then share it with an awesome group of customers who love being crafty, too.

What is your biggest weakness when it comes to blogging? In business?

I have a lot of weaknesses, but I think my biggest weakness… and mistake… has been trying to do everything myself. Letting go of certain aspects of my business has been such a huge fear of mine… I finally realized a few months ago I’d become my own bottleneck. I just finally took on an administrative assistant this last month, and it has been such a relief. Now that I see all that he’s doing to help me, I can’t believe I was even trying to do it all myself. My next step is to find “in-person” help with production, shipping, etc.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

(This one is hard for me because I have a very severe case of shiny object syndrome.)

WordPress, of course. I couldn’t live without it.
Canva – I create all of my eBooks, and sometimes social media graphics, in Canva.
HelpScout – I’ve only been using this for a short time, but it has made handling and outsourcing all my email so much easier.

One book that was pivotal to your success…

The War of Art

Focus on your strengths or improve weaknesses?

Definitely, focus on your strengths, and then seek help from others who are strong where you are weak.

One change/decision you made that led to exponential growth…

Offering my ideas instead of simply my products. (And, realizing that my ideas were worth offering.)

Who inspires you or who do you look to as mentors?

I have a mastermind group that I joined last year. I consider them not just super-smart business people, but my friends, too. I have them to bring questions to, ask for help from, and to bring a new perspective to my business. And, I can strive to do the same for them, which helps me continue to learn and grow and be a better person.

One thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

In the handmade blogging world, I get a little irritated at the number of people who teach how to sell handmade products, even though they don’t actually sell any handmade items…. they’re only selling their “how to sell your stuff”…. stuff. 🙂

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

I think there is SO MUCH out there these days about blogging that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And even worse, when you’ve been going for a few weeks or months, and you’re not seeing a whole lot of results, that overwhelm turns to burnout, and so many people quit. They say, “It’s too hard…it wouldn’t work in my niche anyway… I don’t have time… etc”

My biggest piece of advice is to stick it out, and not expect that all the pieces will fit perfectly in place right from the beginning. Blogging takes a long time to work as a marketing strategy, but that’s exactly why it works so well. It’s not a quick fix. It will build like a snowball, but it takes persistence and endurance, just like anything worthwhile.

Ornament Girl Monthly Kit Club

It’s discouraging to think that it might take 1, 2, or even 5 years to make money with a blog. No one wants to wait that long. But, guess what? 5 years from now is coming anyway. Do you want to be further along in your business then you are right now? Just do a little more every day.

What about being a mom gives you an advantage as a blogger?

In my case, the fact that I wanted to continue being a stay-at-home mom after my husband’s death, really pushed me to work at my blog and make it successful.

If everything was taken from you and you had to rapidly build your blog from scratch, what would you do to build an audience?

I would create a few blog posts just to get started, add a sign up for an email list, and begin running Facebook ads right away. I would go back to add/perfect later.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

Right now, my main goal is to continue growing my membership club, which I’ll do by continuing to attract my target audience with my blog, and then inviting them to join my email list. That way I can build my relationships with them over time, which will hopefully lead to them wanting to be a part of my paid community.

Closing thoughts…

When Staci responded back to be interviewed, I was very excited to speak with her.

She had such a unique story and blog. She’s proof that with focus and passion, you can build a successful online business in any niche. Yes, it does take some tactics. However, those come with time when you have put the work in. When you have laid the groundwork.

Originally, she was an artist who enjoyed her craft. Recognizing the demands of her audience, she pivoted to become a teacher so that many people can enjoy her work. Imagine all the families now doing crafts together. Girls are taking up a new hobby now because of the teacher they found on the internet.

By not staying the course too long in one direction, she was able to spike her income and help more people by letting go. The money is a response to the value she is bringing to the world.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. Was this helpful for you?

If so, please share Staci’s story on Facebook so that others can be inspired by it. Also, let me know in the comments one ah-ha moment you had from reading this article.

If you would like to connect further with Staci, you can visit her blog, ornament club, and Facebook page.

Complete Guide to Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog

According to a recent poll published by Smart Insights, content marketing was voted as the #1 most important digital trend for marketers in 2015.

This was beyond double the amount of responses of the next trend of big data and three times that of social media.

Blogging is clearly more alive than ever.

But, why such the drastic shift in focus towards content marketing?

It’s safe to say that marketers and small business owners (now more than ever) understand content is the ammunition you need to be relevant online. Done correctly, it will bring you traffic, exposure, leads, and customers.

However, continually writing great content may be an uphill battle for you.

With the majority of your time invested in income generating activities, maybe you just can not find the time to execute a consistent content marketing strategy.

That being the case, how do you build a popular blog when you do not have the time or when writing does not come easy to you?

Simple. You find people to write for you.

But, in order to find writers for your blog, you need to understand their motivation.

Writers write for credibility, exposure, and compensation (or any combination of the three).

Some people think that just having a vision for your blog is going to draw people in and that writers should create for you for free.

Without an established blog, large email list, or being a public figure, you may find it next to impossible to attract quality writers who write free.

It’s a catch 22 …

Good content is expensive, but it’s also what you need to promote and attract people to your site. Then once you have a popular blog, people will be begging to write for you for free.

And at that point, you still may want to pay your writers.

When money is on the line, the relationship changes. They are working for you. I find it so much easier to pay for content.

Moreover, I also suggest not looking for the cheapest route and waste your time working with unqualified, unprofessional writers. Your content is not something you want to skimp over.

Eventually, you can build your site up where it is an authority and the dynamic changes because people are seeking you out. Just as they would jump through hoops for a Forbes feature; just for the credibility that logo brings to their site.

My goal is to provide a solution to those who have a vision, but need help acquiring content for your blog. You know that once you have the content, you can market it and get exposure. So, I’ve organized years of experience in blogging and working with writers, and put it into this easy to digest guide.

Follow the steps I lay out below, and you will know exactly how to find and hire writers for your blog.

In this guide, we are going to dive into these topics:

Once you have these tips and strategies down and you crack the content code, you can use this for ebooks, social media posts, infographics, email newsletters and more. Let’s begin…

What Is Your Content Strategy?

Before you dive headfirst into finding and hiring writers for your blog, there are a few simple questions you want to ask yourself that will help paint a clearer picture for your content marketing strategy.

1. What is my blog content publishing model?

Your publishing model is the type of blog content you publish.

For example, you might run an expert blog where you are the face of the blog and source of information. Or, you might have a publishing model, like Learn To Blog, where you build a brand and feature writers on your platform.

If you have not already identified your publishing model, this article I wrote will help you create clarity.

But, let’s assume you are an expert where your name is the brand and you do not wish to have guest writers under your name. Can you still hire people to write for you?

You’d be absolutely shocked at how many famous faces do not necessarily write their own books and blog content.

A literary agent for ghostwriters Madeleine Morel estimates in an NPR article that 60% of bestselling non-fiction books are ghostwritten by invisible authors.

Meaning that your favorite authors or bloggers are likely pulling the strings while someone else carries the workload of creating the content.

Morel suggests that is because “celebrities sell books, but they cannot necessarily write them.”

Ethical debates sway to one side or to the other on the topic of ghostwriting.

“When someone sits down to read a book or a blog post, there is an unspoken contract that says the name on the content is the person who wrote it. Where I come from, we call this trust. So if a real person is claiming to be the author behind a book or blog but hires someone else to write the content, he or she is violating that contract. He or she is breaking that trust. And losing credibility.”

I’m here just to display the facts. You can decide for yourself whether you want to ghostwrite your content or attribute it to other authors.

You can use ghostwriters to get you 80% the way to your goal. I would never 100% ghostwrite as you never want to risk your voice. You give the ideas and maintain the connection with your audience and let the writers carry the workload.

But, it all comes back to the vision for your blog and your publishing model.

When you have a multiple author blog, you have more influence to attract writers anyways and it shifts the responsibility off of your shoulders.

Best-selling author and venture capitalist Gary Vaynerchuk publishes a video show called the #AskGaryVee show, and recently discussed why he constantly refuses to write quotes for other people’s books.

“There’s so many people saying so many stupid things about business and marketing and social, that I’m scared to give my name on it because then I’m endorsing you, but then you’re saying ‘here’s the way to hack Twitter’ and it’s wrong. I’m not on the same side as people on a lot of things. It’s just the way it is.”

Determining your content model is essential to publishing your writing opportunity. Some writers price differently to ghostwritten vs attributed content.

Regardless on how you proceed with hiring writers, keep ridiculously high standards for your content. In fact, you should be attracting people who are significantly better writers than you.

2. How often to I want to post new content?

Consistency is key in this game. But, don’t get that confused with frequency.

As an inequality, it would look like something like this:

Quality > Consistency > Frequency

You don’t have to blog a lot. Derek Halpern from Social Triggers claims he was able to build a very popular blog by averaging 3 posts per month from 2012-2014.

You want to find something that is not overly aggressive where you will be setting yourself up for failure.

Plus, it takes a while to get into a flow of working with writers, communicating, editing, and getting a few articles under your belt.

Personally, I shoot for two to four articles per month. I’d rather see you post two articles per month that you invest more time into marketing those articles.

You can scale up as you can allocate more resources to towards it.

3. What is your budget for acquiring new content?

Going into your content marketing strategy, be prepared that this is an investment in your business.

Although content can provide short-term benefits like leads and sales, it’s really a long-term game. But, it makes no sense to me to invest in content if you are not going to put a full effort into marketing it. Decide how much you are willing to invest in great content over time.

$200 per month? $500 per month? $1,000 per month?

In my business, I will gladly spend $150 to $200 per article because I know the long-term value of the article. People will share it with friends and it will get ranked in the search engines and bring in organic traffic. I know that the leads that come in from that will far exceed the amount invested in the content.

However, authority takes precedence over ROI.

You will be able to paint a clearer picture on what you can expect to invest in content

Where to Find and Hire Writers for Your Blog

Writers are everywhere. You just need to know how to identify them. Here we will examine some of the best places to search for your next content writer.

1. Content Marketplaces

A content marketplace is a designed specifically to connect writers with contractors.

Some of the most popular ones include TextBroker, iWriter, WriterAccess, Zerys, and Scripted.

There is a top tier platform called ebyline which is elite writers. The prices reflects that as its a monthly fee to remain a member, but if your are looking for top-tier content, this is your place. You will have access to a much smaller talent pool, however they are vetted writers.

Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Content marketplaces usually allow you to post a project and writers can compete for the chance to work with you. Since many writers flock to these sites, the biggest positive is that if you have a niche that requires specialized knowledge, you may have a better chance of finding someone here.

On the other hand, you have to be very particular on whom you work with. Most of these sites work on a rating system and lure you in by advertising articles written for you for $1.25. While the temptation is real, even if you are on a budget, stick with 5-star writers even if that means producing less content.

You will end up wasting more time and resources going back and forth or having someone who is not native to the English language. What I suggest you doing is starting with a small test project to get a sense for the type of content being produced. With TextBroker, if you do not get submissions on the quality you are looking for, you can refuse the order and get your money refunded.

Since TextBroker is the only site among all of these that I have used (not saying it’s the best, it’s just the only one I have used), I will give you an example on how a project works here.

For example, as you can see in the screenshot below, I’ve started a new project with TextBroker.

Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

TextBroker gives you an estimated price based on quality and length of your content

You have different options and can choose a niche, quality level, and word count. Based on this, you are shown the maximum amount of money you will spend on this project.

There are thousands of writers, and if you do not get submissions on the quality you are looking for, you can refuse the order and get your money refunded. TextBroker offers three different styles of writing projects for you to place. You can have people submit offers to you, or you can post your opportunity.

However, it must be said that searching freelancer sites can be a tedious process. Moreover, giving the project to the lowest bidder is not always the wisest course to follow (you’ll often get what you pay for).

Don’t be surprised if you find, as Kelly Gurnett once put it, “desperate freelancers prepared to sell their first born for the chance to write someone’s 250-page ebook.”

Having to reject articles because they are below par after a deadline can be disappointing to say the least. What if the project was time sensitive? What if you have to reject another revision of the article? (Trust me, that happens).

Whatever the case, it is your choice to decide whom you’ll hire. On freelancer sites, profile and review ratings best measure quality of a writer, not the price.

The process can seem daunting when a marketplace allows all writers on their platform to apply for posted jobs. This makes the selection process even more difficult for you. However, some make it simpler. How?

Text Broker is unique because it is built specifically for matching writers with publishers. It has a large pool of writers, and you can get very specific on the type of writers you are seeking.

2. Freelance Marketplaces

Freelance marketplaces are open to all type of freelance work and they have a wide appeal to a massive amount of freelancers, including writers.

Some of the top ones include Upwork, Elance, Freelancer, Guru, People Per Hour.

Some are more or less bidding sites where hoards of freelancers bid on your project. Other marketplaces assign your project to the most qualified writer in the marketplace.

Still, others have different writers work on your project. On completion, they’re given to you for assessment. You then choose one that best fits your needs.

There are lots of them, and everyone has their preferences. They include but are not limited to:

Upwork (formerly Odesk) and Elance

Since, Upwork (formerly known as ODesk) will be soon be merged with Elance to form a single freelance marketplace, I have grouped them together here. For the past several years, I’ve hired almost all of my freelance workers from Upwork. Functionally speaking, the site is very easy to use and it is driven on a rating system. With this said, it will take some navigating to find writers to work on a per word rate without overly inflated hourly rates. Because the good works command higher rates.

Upwork -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

There is a community of over three million freelancers on Elance and 9 million on Upwork. You can find just about any kind of freelancer you’re looking for on these sites. What is more, article writing is one of their top skills at present (it’s in the top three).

Joining Elance and posting a job is free. So what do you do? Post a job. Describe what type of writing you need, and talented freelancers apply instantly with proposals or bids.

Instead of waiting for bids on the project, you can also search for freelancers. Note that freelancers that turn up in the results are often those using either a Small Business Account or Large Company Account. Those are premium membership plans for Elance. You can then invite the freelancers to bid on your project.

Elance also makes recommendations to make your job easier; analyzing your requirements and recommending freelancers best suited for your job.

Ultimately, whatever route you take, you have the opportunity to choose freelancers you want to work with personally.

So go ahead and check their profiles, read their proposals carefully, check their portfolios, test scores and ratings given by past clients. And then,

Choose your freelancer.

3. Job Boards

Writing job boards are different from the marketplaces.

Marketplaces are free to post and job boards the companies make money off of you posting the job ad. But, don’t let this steer you away. This is actually one of my favorite ways to attract high quality writers. When you have money invested in the job posting, you attract a high quality applicant.

The job boards almost always work the same way: you pay to post the writing project, and writers apply for it. Sometimes, the applicants pay a monthly fee before they can apply too. In any case, only you can see each application and decide if it’s a good fit or not.

There are many online job boards, but here are the two I’ve found the most success with…

ProBlogger Job Board

This job board is the gold standard to attracting writing candidates. For $50, you can run a job posting for 30 days and it takes minutes to setup. Since the readers of ProBlogger are already blogging focused writers, you can expect they are more polished when it comes to blogging.

A writer might just be able to put together great content, but applicants will take into consideration linking, images, optimization, headlines, etc.

Problogger Jobs -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com
The ProBlogger Job Board is one of the best places to find quality bloggers

From personal experience, I’ve seen roughly 40 applicants respond to my last posting in the first 2 days. You may attract more or less depending on the popularity of your blog and how niche your topic is.

BloggingPro job board is another option, but I have not used them. It costs $30 to have your job posted for 30 days. It appears fairly active getting one new job posting per day, but there is a reason why it is cheaper.

Focus on places that are getting many more job postings. If people are posting jobs, then there are going to be job seekers on the site actively searching.

Craigslist

My love affair with Craigslist began back in 2008 back when you could post job ads for free. Craigslist allows you to  because you can find talented people who are not normally in the pool of people applying on the typical blogging job boards.

People local to you is also a plus if you ever want to meet them in person. And it’s cheap to run an ad; only $25. When you post here, make your expectations very clear. You may find great writers, but they may not necessarily be bloggers. So let them know that formatting, images, sub-headlines, and scannable content are all things that are important to you.

Crafting the Perfect Job Description

There is no hard and fast rule here. Best practice is to see how others in your niche are doing it.

Keep in mind, freelancers are not looking for a job. They enjoy the freedom they already have. They are looking for opportunity to get paid for their work, but also they would love to have repeat clients they can come back to.

Just keep it short and simple including these things:

  • Who you are (and why your mission is important)
  • Links to examples of posts you want them to model
  • List your criteria for a great post
  • Instructions on applying

As an example, here’s a job ad I ran on ProBlogger that received 40+ applicants for Learn To Blog.

Notice that the heading of the job’s description is very specific. In my case, I would even change it to include the massive exposure opportunity. Leverage what you have.

But, don’t position it like a corporate job ad. Keep it short and simple.

The first time I wrote a job ad, I put a price in the post. The second time, I left the price off the ad as suggested by Neil Patel from Quick Sprout due to the fact that people work at different rates.

We’ll dive more into pricing negotiating later in this guide, but I prefer to leave the price off of my postings.

4. Poaching Writers From Your Competition

Another way to find writers is to approach people that are actively pursuing guest writing opportunities. Take a look at the blogs in your niche. Are people contributing guest posts?

You can also search blogs that have hired external writers and try hiring the same writers. Such blogs can be easily found on freelance job boards.

Do a little digging and you’ll find there are freelance writers who will be more than willing to take up your writing project.

This is quite easy too. Because most of the work you should have to do is cut short. Okay this depends on the kind of person you are, but if you scour blogs that accept guest posts then you have a good chance of finding a writer that has the voice or style you need.

And you know what? Most of the very best writers do not apply for jobs on job boards.

That’s not necessarily because they’re very busy. And it’s not because they’re making so much money they don’t want more work, and yes, more money. It’s because the smartest writers often make you (clients) come to them.

One way they do this is through guest blogging.

You know the best part? The blogs they post on have done most of the critical work for you. That’s because if a writer can get past the editorial guidelines of these blogs, then it automatically means they’re a good enough writer.

However, it doesn’t mean that if you find a writer’s post on a lifestyle blog then they won’t be a good fit for your real estate blog. Of if you found the post on a finance blog then they can’t write about WordPress.

Another way to quickly get a landscape of the players in your niche is to run a quick search of pages on Facebook. Type in your niche name. Below you can see I just typed “gardening” as an example.

Facebook Searching -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Once you have found a few pages on your topic, you can check out their blogs and see what type of content they are publishing.

Taking this a step further, I like to go to the individual pages and see what other pages are liked by that page. I do this because they will help me quickly find related pages that I might not normally search for.

In the screenshot below, I just found the page “Herbs & Oils World” which is a topic most people interested in gardening would also be interested in.

Raiding Fan Pages -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

These are also communities you can start engaging with and searching their blogs to see who is writing for them and sending them a per. I recommend liking the pages relevant to you and interacting with these communities. They will see you commenting on Facebook posts, blog posts and even writing guest posts. Show your expertise by helping people and linking back to your site. People will click on your site, find your blog and tell their friends.

Ever heard “Google is your friend?” A good writer knows that more than anyone else. While it is true that some of them do have specialties, and won’t take on any writing gig just because they want quick money, they also know any topic can be researched thoroughly on the internet.

Let’s say you saw a post with the headline below on a popular blog:

Headline -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com
Try looking for the author page or author box on blog posts

You love it and want to see if you could hire the writer or get them to make a contribution.

You could look for their bio at the end of the article, links to their website, or if that information is not available, run a quick Google search on their name.

Most multi-author blogs allow writers a bio at the end of their post (Learn To Blog does). Writers often include their contact information in that bio. It could be a link to their blog, Twitter handle, or Facebook page.

Here’s an Example Email That Your Can Send

[content_band style=”color: #333;” bg_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”all” inner_container=”true”]

Hey FIRST NAME,

I want to start off by saying I saw your post on BLOG NAME and I enjoyed the wonderful way you conveyed your message.

I got here from the info in your bio on BLOG NAME.

All I could think was: I’d love to have you work on WRITING PROJECT.

(You can either send details of the writing project, or conclude with a personal message in this paragraph)

Let me know what you think, and I will forward more details of the project soon!

Cheers,

YOUR NAME
[/content_band]

5. Conduct a Google Search

When you know how to harness the power of Google, you can find anything you need.

Try using the following searches on Google:

  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] blogs
  • top [YOUR BLOG NICHE] blogs
  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] writer
  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] author
  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] blogger

Google Parenting Example -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

From the highlighted results above, you can quickly see not just parenting blogs, but parenting blogs using external writers. Now, even if the blog owners are not interested in writing for pay, the writers they have featured on their blogs would. So it’s left for you to select a writer of your choice.

Google Parenting Example 2 -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Let’s say you scrolled further down the search result for “parenting writer”, you will get this:

You can see links to blogs hiring writers on the Problogger job board. You can then apply to no. 3 above. Or you see the website of a parenting writer showing up in the search too. Reach out to the writer through his or her website.

6. Facebook Groups

Facebook has not been my first choice to find people to write as it is more of a social platform. But, there is one feature I really like to hunt down writers.

Facebook groups can be one of your most powerful assets.

Like the Google search above, try using some of those terms on Facebook. You can see groups that many writers belong to. You can browse their profile to find their blog and look at their work and if you are interested send them a short message to them directly to see if they are interested in writing for you.

Like the Google search above, try using some of those same terms on Facebook. You can see groups that many writers belong to. You can browse their profile to find their blog and look at their work and if you are interested send them a short message to them directly to see if they are interested in writing for you.

Facebook Groups Search -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Don’t doubt this method.

Using this method, I hired a phenomenal copywriter by asking the admin of a group to let me post a job ad inside. Because the people in the group were so targeted to what I was looking for, one guy applied and he ended up being the perfect fit.

Months later, he still works with me.

7. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for finding writers. After all, it’s a great place for them to showcase their work, skills and find clients, just like you.

There are three ways your can find great writers on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Profile Searches

First, the “Search People” box at the top of every LinkedIn page can be used to find freelance writers. Any search can potentially bring up a large number of people.

You can narrow search results by entering a particular keyword or keyword phrase, depending on what you need. For example, it’s safer to type in “technical writer” or “spiritual writer”, than just “writer” in the search box.

LinkedIn 2
The more specific you can be in your search will bring you more targeted results

The good thing about LinkedIn is that in the search results, people with whom you have a connection, either through one of your own contacts or a LinkedIn group turn up first. The Advanced Search option in LinkedIn also enables you choose the location of the writer.

If you find one or more writers you are interested in, take some time to explore their profiles, recommendations, and even mutual connections. Positive feedback from past and current clients or recommendations that describe projects similar to yours are bonus points. Not to be overlooked is a clear, polished profile, devoid of grammatical errors and typos.

You can then get in touch with your chosen writer and negotiate rates.

LinkedIn Groups

Very similar to harvesting writers from Facebook groups as I have mentioned above, you can find giant pools of writers within LinkedIn Groups. You can search and contact people directly or build relationships with the group organizers to see if you can post your writing opportunity within the group. Just check the rules of the group before posting an opportunity.

LinkedIn Groups -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

LinkedIn Pulse

Another option is finding people who publish content on LinkedIn. You can do this via LinkedIn Pulse.

LinkedIn Pulse -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

People who publish content on LinkedIn are often featured on LinkedIn Pulse. It’s a great way to find writers because writers publishing there are already trying to get traffic to their website, book, services, or squeeze page.

8. Twitter

Moz’s Followerwonk allows you search for Twitter Bio’s. Any of the following terms can give you meaningful results:

  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] writer
  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] blogger
  • [YOUR BLOG NICHE] author

You can use the filter on the left to sort search results based on relationships. Meaning you can opt to display only people you’re following, your followers, users that have any relationship with your account or users that have no relationship with your account.

If you find any profile or bio of interest to you, reach out to the owner, and he or she just might be willing to take on your project.

Followerwonk -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

By searching for people on social sites, you can see the size of the following of the writer you are pursuing. Which is another opportunity to ask them to push the article when it goes live.

9. Finding Experts on Quora

This a one I’ve been really liking lately. Quora is just full of experts answering peoples questions. You can run a search on Facebook and LinkedIn, but are these experts you find actually qualified writers. When you look at the people providing answers in Quora, many of them are well written pieces. And the folks on the usually have the credibility to back what they are saying up.

Someone asks a question and people can leave their feedback. Everyone has a bio and the community can vote on the answers. So the best ones get upvoted which increasess the credibility of the expert.

Here’s an example of a search for the topic “Dog Training”

Screenshot 2015-06-23 16.46.27

As you can see in the responses, you can evaluate someone’s writing style and some of these resposnes are good enough to be blog posts. Many of the experts even link to articles they wrote.

 Screenshot 2015-06-23 16.50.19

9. Content Marketing Certification Programs

There are a few reputable content marketing education programs that provide a certification upon completion.  Two off the top of my head are Hubspot and Copyblogger, and I am sure you can find more on Google. But, stick to the well-known programs as you will have people who actually know what they are doing. Anyone can slap a certificate or badge together and give it to you after you buy their course.

Copyblogger, for example, currently has 57 writers on their Certified Content Marketer’s page rounded with different skills.

“These writers have earned our “Certified Content Marketer” designation, completing advanced coursework as well as passing a detailed review of their work….”

Literally, it means that those writers on that page have been vetted for you. Which is why I say only evaluate graduates from companies who practice what they preach. They hold credibility. A university degree in content marketing means nothing to me. I want someone who is living it in the real world.

10. Referrals

Do you have or know a friend who runs a blog or has used a freelance writer lately? Ask for a referral. Or, maybe their contact has a friend.

Friends want to help each other out. Especially if they have a relationship with a freelancer who is not writing for them full time, ask to use them for your project. Your friend may gladly oblige out of the goodness of their heart, and to gain goodwill from the freelancer for the project referral.

Shoot him or her an email asking to be introduced to the writer. Or, do as I do and post a Facebook status asking for help.

How to Price Your Writing Opportunity

Depending on the quality of content you are looking for, expect to pay $100 – $250 for a 2,000 word blog post that is researched, has photos, stylized, and free of grammatical errors.

When I ask the writers how much they charge, usually the response is in the range $0.05 to $0.20 per word for a post.

Which I prefer to do things on a per word basis instead of flat rate posts. Writing is art and my preference is not to limit them on price, rather let the article naturally take shape (within reason).

[blockquote cite=”Neil Patel” type=”center”]It’s better to pay for one really good blog post than it is to pay for 10 mediocre posts.[/blockquote]

From my experience, some writers are willing to lower their rates when posts exceed 2,000 words and for ongoing work.

I’ll ask the writer to tell me whatBut, I prefer people to tell me what they charge and do a little negotiating if I feel it is too high.

You never know. Someone may have relatively high rates, but then when you tell them they are outside your budget, they may come down because they really want to write for you.

On the freelancer sites listed above, you’ll find people offering their services for as little as $1 for a 500 word post. Sure, that kind of content may have worked 5 years ago, but with so much information online today, you are better off focusing on fewer posts of higher quality.

Once you have

Great content is expensive, yes. But it’s only 20% of the formula. 80% of you time should be spent promoting that post. It’s a long term investment in your business.

Just make sure your blog is optimized to capture leads before you start unleashing your content to the world so that you will eventually see a ROI.

For a complete guide on rates, be sure to check this resource out (a little secret: it’s for freelancers but I think it can help those hiring freelancers too).

What to Say to Writers to Validate Them

Whether you run a posting or you are contacting people directly, it’s likely you’ll ask the writers to tell you about themselves.

Let’s dissect this real email application below…

Email Example -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Among everything he told me, the one thing that stood out was that they were formerly a practicing attorney. This makes his different from everyone else. But, let’s continue.

He followed instructions and linked to some similar articles. His work was solid. He also claims to be good at breaking down complex subjects. he pays attention to detail, if we were to write an article on the topic, it gives the article credibility and likely he can write posts on this topic better than most.

Already, I have an idea in mind what I could hire him to write better than 99% of people who apply.

Until I have all the information I need about them and until they are Technically, I don’t ask the writers to pitch me ideas until I have information about them and until they are clear on who my audience is.

Sure, they could guess based on reading the site, but they are not going to REALLY know my audience like I do.

Here’s a reply I sent back.

Email Example -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

Instead of having writers pitch me a bunch of broad ideas like “9 Ways to Grow Your Blog”, my goal is to discover their sweet spot.

Their sweet spot is where their passion and talent intersect.

Ask them a few questions about themselves. Some people might give you a soft answer like one guy told me he was reliable. Reliability is a standard.

I told him that and asked him to dive deeper and here’s how he replied:

“Thank you for the email challenging me to dig deeper. I would have to say that what sets me apart is my ability to define the motivations of my target audience. I’ve long been a student of human nature and spent many years in sales, which is all about defining motivations, thus I feel I have a lot to offer bloggers looking to understand what motivates someone to become a regular blog follower.”

Jackpot! Now we are getting somewhere.These questions help them think in terms of specific processes that they have mastered over time where they can break them down simply for my readers.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your applicants. They will respect you for it and that you care. The last thing I need is someone writing just for a paycheck. Blogging is art and I want them to pour their heart into the content.

Help them think in terms of specific processes that they have mastered over time where they can break down for your readers.

Missing from the screenshot above was also precise details on who our avatar (my ideal reader) is. Give them as much detail as possible about who is going to be reading the content.

So, here is how he responded…

Email Example -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com

The best thing to do when communicating with them is be real with them. If you are brand new to this, just come out and say it.

If you are brand new to this, just come out and say it.

“Hey this is my first go around at this. You have done this before. How do you suggest we proceed from here?” Put the work on them.

After they give you some headline ideas, I definitely suggest you get some sort of brief or outline before they begin creating the article.

You also want to look for writers that have a following and are willing to promote the content and link to it. It’s free traffic for you and links that sit in their portfolio on their site. I’ve found that some writers come out and say that they will promote it.

If they mention links in it, they should reach out to the people too.

Conduct A Quick Background Check

For a freelance writing job? Absolutely!

I speak from experience when I say that you only have to make this mistake once.

After seeing several stellar marketing posts come through my Facebook newsfeed, I reached out to the author (one of my connections) to contribute an article on a specific traffic strategy he was having success with.

Great guy. Great personality. Totally professional and punctual with deadlines.

He invested hours into a phenomenal article. When he finished, I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.

One of landing pages he was linking to had an affiliation with an adult website. So, I then ran a Google search and found another instance of marketing advice for adult websites. Although he is a nice guy, it’s not something I want my brand or myself associated with, so I backed out of the deal we made.

It’s likely not something I would have found running a simple search in the first place, but it doesn’t hurt to run a check on your writers.

Search them on Google. Evaluate their website. Check their social profiles to see the content they are sharing.

You want your writers to be aligned with your values. By chance that you run a vegan food blog, it would reflect poorly on you if your writers are Instagramming themselves eating a steak on the weekend.

Setting the Proper Expectations for Your Writers

When communicating with your writers, you want to set proper expectations. Your ability to clearly articulate what you will directly reflect the time and quality of the work the writers submit. Furthermore, by setting expectations of the project, they cannot make excuses if directions are not followed.

Here are a few items in which you should consider advising your writers:

Writing Style – Send them some examples of the style you would like them to write in. This helps them find the right voice. If you don’t have any work created, find some links to posts you want to emulate.

Audience – Create a description of your audience. You can include things like age, gender, location, profession, education, etc. It will greatly improve their writing if they know with whom they are speaking.

Word Count – Quality over quantity. Opt for fewer, but more in-depth articles. My target is 2,000 words or more. More importantly than the word count is not boxing the author in and letting them get their message across (within reason).

Links – If your blog is new, have them include plenty of sources and links out. Top blogger Neil Patel from Quicksprout suggests you should have 25 outbound links per 1,000 words as a new blogger. By linking to other websites, this also becomes a promotional tactic to contact all the websites notifying them they were mentioned on your site.

Editing – The blog post should be fully edited and free of grammatical errors. If you are you are your own editor, one tool I’ve found helpful is using Grammarly to polish my posts. It catches a lot of errors that I miss.

Images – Images and screenshots are very important to the success of your content and should be included. Ask your authors if they have a stock photography account. Since, I primarily use DepositPhotos, I will let them pull photos from there because they are high quality. I’ve had authors submit work with cheesy photos that you see on every other site and serve no purpose. Real photos and screenshots work great.

Location – Often your writers will ask you how you want to receive the content. Google Docs works as a phenomenal (free) collaborative word processor. No compatibility issues and feedback is real-time instead of going back and forth in an email thread. You can also create a folder for each author in your Drive account to manage all the articles.

Collaboration using Google Drive | LearnToBlog.com
Real-Time Collaboration using Google Docs

Attribution – Are you giving credit to the author? If so, you will need their bio and a headshot to add to their profile or for a byline.

Formatting – Not only should the author match your style of writing, but the formatting of the post. For example, I like to avoid excessively long paragraphs, use sub-headings to make posts scannable, and bold and italicize things I want to stand out.

Optimization – Is your writer writing with SEO in mind? Not all writers may be skilled in this arena. But, if you are targeting specific keywords, it’s a good idea to make that clear.

Deadline – I’m looser about the deadlines, but if you have a specific time you need it by then be clear about that. Usually, they will give you a proposed time on when they can have it complete. I prefer they give me their word on when they can complete by on their terms.

Price – Negotiate a flat rate or price per word up front before they begin writing. Some writers may ask for your signature on an agreement.

Be clear on your expectations up front.

Tracking the Quality of Delivered Content

Now that you have an article approved for publishing, you can choose to add your writers as contributors inside your WordPress blog.

Adding Writers to WordPress As Contributors
Adding Writers to WordPress As Contributors

This allows them to go in and do most of the leg work in editing and styling the article. You’ll likely want to have an editor go through the piece, or do it yourself. Here’s a pro tip for those who will self-edit the article.

Purchase the tool Grammarly. Using this tool, I catch over 50 mistakes in per article pertaining to grammar, sentence structure, and word repetitiveness. It’s a browser extension and it works right inside your WordPress editor showing any errors in real time.

Once it meets your satisfaction, it’s time to publish the post!

Now that you’ve successfully hired writers for your content creation plan, you want to monitor and track your experience. You can use a simple spreadsheet like the one below can help you organize a list of contributed posts.

Writer Spreadsheet -- Finding and Hiring Writers for Your Blog | LearnToBlog.com
Example of a spreadsheet used to track quality of writers

Yours can be simpler, or more sophisticated, but it can save you a bucketload of time for sure. One year after running our first ad on ProBlogger job board, several of the same writers applied to write again.

I just looked at our writers sheet and the notes attached to each writer.

Now I prefer to price on a per word basis as the length of the posts can vary.

As a way to further engage your writers, after they have successfully published one article, it might be a good idea to invite them to a private Facebook group and create your own idea flow.

You can keep a running list of blog ideas and post them into the group for your writers to compete over. Maybe multiple authors can contribute to a single article. But get your feet wet

Often, people feel hesitant to give out their best content for free. Think of your content as your business card. This is your chance for people to find you and see you as a credible expert.

Getting Extra Traffic From the Post

What’s cool about using the strategy that is laid out above is that if you have a relatively well put together blog with great content that appears reputable, your writers will naturally want to talk about the work they’ve done.

You see, it doesn’t matter if they get paid or not. If they are proud to show their work off and to associate with your brand, you can ask them to promote the content to their audience.

For example, you can say that you will investing heavily into promoting the article and would appreciate any type of push they can give to it. Like emailing their contacts, sharing on social media, and reaching out to anyone they link to in the post. Also, freelancers get business because of their portfolios. So it does not hurt to even ask them to link to the article from their site.

Every little bit of promotional effort helps.

And if you specifically target writers that have influence, you are paying for the content and getting the traffic for free.

You may want to outline any suggestions you have in a email to them.

Now, I Want to Hear From You…

Blogging all starts with an idea. But, it’s not the best idea that wins. Everything has been said before. What makes you unique is the way that you have to say and taking massive action.

It’s your turn. What idea do you have for a powerhouse blog post that could be a smash hit in your niche?

Share your idea in the comments below and let’s discuss how we can make it better.

If you found this helpful, I would greatly appreciate if you shared it on Facebook and sent it to your friends and colleagues who need help creating their blog content.

30 Days of Content – A Challenge to Rapidly Transform Your Blog

A simple path to unlocking your inner creative genius and getting your blog noticed in 30 days or less — even if you are not a writer.

You decided to start a blog for a reason…

Think about all the ideas, thoughts, lessons, and stories you have learned along your journey in life.

More importantly, think about all of the people across the globe who are going online and eagerly searching. Searching for information to solve a problem or to find a story that they can relate to.

That one person is out there in the world who after consuming your content, you will profoundly impact their life. But, since the content you intended to write is still just an idea in your head or laying in a notebook somewhere, they end up settling.

Is YOUR potential audience settling for the next best thing?

Look, I understand everything that holds people back from publishing content online. I’ve experienced it all myself…

  • I don’t have the time to write content.
  • What are people going to say about me?
  • Blogging is too difficult to understand.
  • I don’t know what to write about.
  • Where do I even start?

But, what if there was a way to remove everything that standing between you and your expression of words and content and tap into your true creativity?

Bloggers often get caught up in comparisons to what everyone else is doing, what theme or plugins use, or how they are going to make money from all of this.

It’s not that these things aren’t important, they are just not the most important thing.

We want to zero in on the ONE THING that is going to make the biggest impact.

So recently, I asked myself how I could help the community at LearnToBlog.com (and myself) overcome everything that is blocking their creativity and develop a habitual content routine.

A content routine that not only includes writing for ourselves but actually publishing it for the world to consume.

Completely transforming blogging into something that “I get to do” versus something that “I have to do”.

The answer was staring me right in the face…

A painter paints. A sculptor sculpts. A writer writes.

Blogging is art. Your art. Your expression.

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

–Stephen Pressfield (the War of Art)

The only way we can win the creative battles is to create our way through them. To create every day until we strengthen that muscle.

This sparked an idea…

Starting Tuesday, November 17th 2015, I am initiating a global challenge that will ignite your blog and creative genius so that you end 2015 with a bang.

It’s called the 30-Days of Content Challenge and the goal is simple:

To guide you in publishing one piece of content, EVERYDAY, for 30 days.

Ambitious? Absolutely!

Drastic changes require drastic measures.

By making this a daily practice, we stop putting it off for the future and we learn how to produce more impactful content in a shorter amount of time.

Like working out, or eating healthy, I know how difficult it can be to create a new habit. Which is why we’ve set this up so that you can have the best chance to succeed.

Each day as part of your routine, you will write and publish ONE piece of content. It could be for your blog or a guest blog. It can be 100 words or 1,000 words.

How it looks it NOT important.

By taking the pressure off of yourself of needing your blog posts to fit in a certain box, you free yourself. Put yourself in an inspiring environment, and just write. Let it take shape.

Day after day you will find your writing efficiency begin to rise.

What is important is you creating a new habit and you to falling in love with the creative process, not getting caught up in the editing, optimization, or marketing of your posts (that can come later).

We’ll celebrate your success with you by allowing you to link your posts to our private community so that people can see the works of art you created and give feedback. We will collect some of the best content to feature in the LearnToBlog network of 90k subscribers.

Here’s what happens when you accept the challenge:

  1. Fill out your registration form following the instructions on this page
  2. You will be invited to a private Facebook group of other passionate entrepreneurs and difference makers
  3. Each day you will post a link to your daily blog post to the group (that’s how we know you are doing it)
  4. Periodically we will email you expert tips that will aid in your content creation
  5. BONUS: LearnToBlog will run a series of surprise contests throughout the challenge that you can win simply by creating your daily content

A fair warning to you…

This is NOT going to be easy. And this might sting a little bit, but I do NOT want you to join the challenge if you know you are not committed to full participation.

It’s going to be hard and you may even want to quit.

But, just imagine standing at the finish line with a stockpile of content true to who you are that makes your and your mission discoverable online and attracts your dream customer while you sleep.

Think about all the people you can help…

Rules of the Challenge…

  • The challenge beings Tuesday, November 17th and ends December 17th, 2015
  • The contest is 100% FREE for you to join
  • Publish one blog post per day
  • There are no length requirements for your posts — do what feels right to you
  • Posts can be on your blog or guest posts
  • If you miss a day, keep going and try to make up for it later on

SORRY THE CHALLENGE IS NOW CLOSED. CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST FOR FUTURE CHALLENGES

Frequently Asked Questions

[accordion_item title=”Can I use any blogging platform?”]Yes, you can use any blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, etc.)[/accordion_item] [accordion_item title=”What if I don’t have a blog?”]If you do not have a blog, you can set one up quickly using WordPress. We are also extending our free WordPress blog setup service for people who don’t have a blog online. Just let me know in the registration form that you do not have a blog and we can help you set this up.[/accordion_item] [accordion_item title=”Yeah, but won’t I be sacrificing quality for quantity?”]High-quality content does not mean something has to take a ton of time. It’s about efficiency. And letting go of the image of having to be perfect and editing and re-editing your posts.[/accordion_item]

Everything great begins with taking the first step…

My hope is that this simple challenge can help spark something great within you.

By then end of the challenge, you will have a stockpile of content that you can use to market your mission and make yourself discoverable online (if you are not already doing this).

You can get validation on your thoughts and ideas. You can use this to build trust with your prospective audience or as assets you create for your email autoresponder.

Maybe this is the start of a book or even a paid product. Once you have content, you can reuse it whatever way you would like. The possibilities are endless, which is why I hope you take action and join me on this journey.

The hardest part is just getting started and once you have started to maintain that momentum going forward.

This will force you to operate at your highest level and prove to yourself what you are capable of. One post per day is quite a bit of content.

But, once this challenge is over, you will look back and be able to say “Yes, I did that”.

SORRY THE CHALLENGE IS NOW CLOSED. CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST FOR FUTURE CHALLENGES

Now it’s your turn…

If you are on board, do me a favor and also comment below letting me know that you are in and what topics you are going to blog about.

Onward and upward!

Know Your Readers: How to Setup Analytics On Your Blog and Why It’s Critical to Your Success

You’ve probably felt the overwhelm.

You read the blogs and listen to the experts on the steps to take to grow your new blog.

Analysis paralysis sets in with so much varying information on what to do first (or next).

No matter what any blogging teacher tells you, there is one step you must take with your new blog that is critical to your blog success..

(If you don’t have your WordPress blog setup yet, follow this tutorial)

It has nothing to do with your theme, plugins, or SEO.

And you should implement this one thing even if you have no traffic coming to your blog. When you take the steps I am about to show you, your blog will work for you while it grows, giving you peace of mind.

That one thing? Properly setting up tracking and analytics on your blog.

The good news for you is that it will cost you nothing, and you don’t need to be a tech genius to do it.

Why must you do this?

Imagine trying to manage your money without ever seeing or knowing your bank balance, transactions, credit card statements, or investments. You would always be guessing.

Running your blog is the same.

You want to understand precisely who your audience is and what their behavior is on your blog. Once you have this information, you can concentrate your efforts to get the maximum return on your time.

With free tools like Google Analytics, you can set it up once and forget about it.

It will be running in the background and tracking everything for you as your blog grows.

It’s one of those things that you will be kicking yourself down the road if you do not set it up from the start.

In this article, I will show you step-by-step how easy it is to set up tracking on your blog, and how to analyze this data to compound the growth your blog.

But before we jump right in, let me give you a quick example of harnessing your blog data for explosive growth.

By setting up Google Analytics early on my blog Good Food Eating, I began to notice trends in the activity of my readers.

One blog post, in particular, was starting to get a significant amount of traffic.

Google-analytics-3
Identifying Content Trends with Google Analytics

Being opportunity minded, I realized that this post was not bringing me any subscribers, nor was it generating any income.

But, could I expect anything different?

There was no “call to action” within the post.

People would find my blog, reading the content, and leave because I was not instructing them to do anything once they finished consuming the content

So, I decided to run a test…

Within the post, I introduced a simple call to action where people could trade their email address for an ebook. The topic of the ebook being directly related to the subject of the blog post they were reading.

We’ll take a deeper look at how I did this later in the article, but this strategy alone created a 500% increase in my blog subscribers and doubled the traffic to my blog.

Without this data, I would be guessing and spending my time testing things that will not bring a significant return.

When you track your numbers, you make educated decisions about your blog that bring you measurable results.

Most people shy away from tracking and analytics. Likely because it all just seems too technical, too complicated, and you just want to write on your blog.

Trust me, I know how you feel. But, in a few months from now (or less) you can dig into your Google Analytics data that has been tracking in the background and used it to grow your blog traffic or email list.

As Google points out:

“Measurement helps us make good business decisions, without it we don’t know what to change or work on”.

Highly successful bloggers such as Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income and Darren Rowse from Problogger talk openly about their use of Google Analytics to track progress and make informed decisions around growing their blogs.

Just like highly successful bloggers we can all use our numbers to work out what to change and what to work on, so we can maximize our investment of time, energy, or money.

Today I’ll use my new site Diabetes Meal Plans as an example to guide you through the Google Analytics setup. And I’ll also share what some of the stats mean, what to look out for, and a few tips on how that can help you as a blogger to build your list and traffic.

I’d like to point out that this is not the type of post you just read.

If you do have Google Analytics, then open it up and see if you can gather some tips and intel on how to use it better. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed yet, then follow this tutorial from start to finish and you’ll be up and running tracking your stats in no time.

Setting Up Your Google Analytics Account

The first place to get started is to sign up for a Google Analytics account.

In the top right-hand corner, you can either ‘sign in’ or ‘create an account’. If you’ve set up a Gmail account before, just go ahead and sign into that. If you’ve never had a Google account, or if you want to setup a different email and account for your blog, then click on ‘create a new account’ to get started.

Once you’re inside, you’ll see a panel like this:

sign up in 3 steps

Go ahead and click on ‘Sign Up’ and you’ll be taken to the next screen.

Set Up A New Website Account

Once you’re inside, you will be asked to set up a new website. You can complete this process in just a few minutes by filling in the following details.

  • Account name – use the name of your blog or business
  • Website name – pretty obvious
  • Website URL – enter your domain name
  • Select your industry from the drop down categories
  • Select your reporting timezone – I live in Australia but still have mine set to The U.S. because I do a lot of things in U.S. time. This does not affect your overall stats.
  • You can decide who you share your data with, Google and such – leaving the default settings here is fine

You can change any of these preferences later if you make a mistake. But there’s not too much that can go wrong here.

After you’ve gone through that setup, click on the blue button at the bottom to ‘Get Tracking ID’. A pop-up box will appear, and you have to accept Google’s Terms of Service.

Add Your Unique Tracking Code

Next you’ll be given a tracking code that needs to be plugged into your website so your blog can communicate with Google. This is just a copy and paste operation. You DO NOT need to be a tech wizard to accomplish this step.

Step 1: First check your theme

wordpress dashboardLook in your WordPress theme settings first to see if you can paste the code directly into it. In your WordPress dashboard look for your theme icon. For example, I use a Genesis theme, and the theme has a unique section in the WordPress dashboard.

Not all themes have this so the other place you can look is under ‘Appearance’, sometimes there will be a ‘settings’ section for your theme in there.

The Google Analytics code goes in the <head> HTML tag of your site. So what you need to look out for is something that says: “Enter scripts or code you would like in the wp_head”. Or it might say: “Paste script here to go before the closing </head> tag”.

If you can do it directly via your theme that’s great but if you can’t, then turn to a WordPress plugin for help.

Step 2: Use A WordPress Plugin

A WordPress plugin is a simple way to get analytics installed and if you think you might ever change your theme, can save you time down the track. But I’ll just point out the differences with these plugins and share what’s best to choose.

Many people like the type of plugins where you can view stats directly in your WordPress dashboard (eg: Google Analytics by Yoast), meaning you don’t have to go inside Google Analytics at all. They are popular because they seem easier, but I want to share a word of warning here. In my experience, plugins like this can slow down your site once you start getting traffic.

Sure you can always change this, but I do think it’s better if you go directly to Google Analytics and get familiar with reading your stats there. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but by the time you work through this tutorial you’ll know what to look for, and you’ll have a bunch of ideas on how to use your stats too.

If I wasn’t using a Genesis theme, I’d use the Code Snippets plugin because it’s lightweight and gives you the flexibility to add other code in future, meaning you’ll have less plugins to be concerned about overall.

Setting Up Your Google Analytics Property Settings

Once you’re inside Google Analytics you’ll see a whole bunch of stuff on the left hand side, from ‘Property settings’ through to ‘Social settings’. It will state all this other stuff like data collection through to search term exclusion, but you really don’t have to worry about setting any of this up.

By default, Google adds all the general tags and metrics you need, so the only one you need to be concerned about is the ‘Social settings’. Click through to that and enter all your social sites.

Here is the example of the social settings on my new site.

GA social settings2

Essentially you’re adding all your online real estate to this list. And one very important thing to remember is to make sure you add your own URL as well – www.yoursitename.com.

What this does is show you where your ‘name/ brand’ is getting shared and found.

For example, someone else shares my Facebook page on theirs and traffic comes through from there. So instead of just giving me generic social stats, it makes me more detailed. I’ll be monitoring the difference in my future stats to see how this performs.

Later down the track once you get your basics installed, you can come back to the ‘Admin’ panel to make any additions by clicking on it from the top navigation.

Though I won’t be covering it in this article, I’d highly recommend you also add Google Webmaster Tools to your site and connect it to Google Analytics. Later down the track you might also want to explore adwords and adsense.

Understanding the Google Analytics Dashboard

After all that is done, which will take around five minutes, you’ll finally be ready to check out the dashboard.

To get there, just click on ‘Reporting’ in the top navigation menu. Right now you’ll have zero numbers and will see a flatline in front of you like this.

GA dash

We’ll go through all the workings in just a minute, but first, let’s test your Google Analytics install to make sure it’s working properly.

Testing To Make Sure Your Install Is Right

On the left sidebar click on ‘Real Time’ and this literally brings up a ‘Real Time’ feature. I think this is a fun and cool feature, and you can often find me sitting in my office with it running on my second laptop. I just like viewing who is coming and going on my site in ‘real time’.

And as John Jantsch suggests, the ‘Real Time’ feature is also great for tracking live campaigns or competitions, reacting to mentions of your brand, and testing ad campaigns. You’ll find in time that there are any number of ways you can get creative and use the power of your numbers.

But, for now we’re here to test our Google Analytics install.

So what I did was visit my own site from Facebook and clicked on a couple of pages, just to make sure it was working okay. While you’re doing this, you should see the ‘Real Time’ feature in action, showing you what pages have been clicked or where the traffic (all of two clicks) is referred from.

GA real time feature
You can monitor the real-time activity of your blog visitors

Once you see some stats coming in on ‘Real Time’ you know it’s set up right, then wait a few hours and some more stats should start coming in for other areas. Of course, if you have no traffic then it might take a few days, but you will slowly see the stats starting to increase.

So that’s it, you’re now all up and running.

Next, let’s get down into the nitty gritty on some of the things you’ll find inside Google Analytics.

You can find all this info via Google’s site, but this is my shortened, more easily understood version. I’ll also share some ideas in each section to get your stats juices flowing, so you can get creative and use your numbers to help grow your blog.

Getting Familiar With The General Stats Dashboard

Let’s start with the dashboard where you’ll view all your general stats, so click on ‘Reporting’ in the top navigation to get back through to your flatline and take a peak.

GA dash

  • Sessions = visits – the number of times users/ unique visitors interact with your site within the date range period. Unique visitors can have just one session or they might have several sessions during that period.
  • Users = unique visitors – the number of people visiting your site within the selected date range.
  • Pageviews = total pageviews – the total number of pages viewed on your site during the date range period.
  • Pages/ Session – the average number of pages per session that a visitor engages with.
  • Avg. Session Duration – the amount of time the average session lasts.
  • Bounce Rate – the percentage of people who come to your site and leave again straight away without clicking on anything. Having a lower bounce rate is a good sign, but it’s not the be all and end all because bounce rate can be influenced by any number of things such as opening your own site links in a new window instead of the same window, cookies, software, plugins and so forth. Of course, you can always work on improving it but to be honest, I’ve never paid too much attention to it.
  • % New sessions – gives you an idea of how many people are brand new vs returning visitors. This is also shown in the new/ return visitor circle. You don’t see the circle in the image above, but it will appear on the right side of your dashboard once you start getting some traffic.

Once you start getting some visitors, your flatline will turn into a graph of your visitors over the selected time period. The default date range period for stats shows the past month, but you can select a custom range from the drop down calendar in the top right hand corner. This means you can track stats on a certain week or even a certain day.

Just be aware that if you change that date range, it also changes stats through all the other panels as well.

Now, none of this probably makes sense to you right now. So, what I’d recommend is that you bookmark this tutorial and once you go through the setup and start getting more traffic and stats, you can refer back to all this info for the details.

Inside Google Analytics you can make special dashboards, shortcuts, or look at intelligence events, there’s tons of stuff you can explore in your own time. But, let’s cut straight to the important stuff, the audience, where they are coming from, and what they are doing on our site.

That’s really what you really want to know.

Understanding Your Audience

One amazing thing about the web is that Google knows all.

Google tracks all of our information, how old we are, what we like based on sites we visit, where we’re located, and what technology we use.

While that might seem scary in some ways, for tracking and stats it’s perfect.

So here’s what you can find out about your audience by clicking on the different panels.

Demographics – age, gender, and interests.

Geography – find out which part of the world your audience comes from.

Behavior – new vs returning – this converts our basic stats into numbers, showing us how many people are new vs returning.

Frequency recency/ engagement – these stats break down those numbers even further and show us how long people stay on our site. For example, I might find out that most of the people only come to my site once and browse a few pages. This is fairly common, but what these numbers also show is our loyal reader stats. Our goal is always to try to increase engagement on our site, so these numbers help us monitor this at the numbers level.

Technology/ Mobile – yes Google tracks what browser our users are using and if our readers are coming from mobile devices.

All of these stats help to give us a deeper insight into our audience. And often it can come as a surprise that our audience is quite different to what we imagined.

For example, I could be fooling myself thinking my audience is only women from Australia, but when I look at my stats I know they are about 50/50 men and women. And my primary source of traffic is the US, followed by Canada, the UK, and then Australia. This helps inform me about things like time to send newsletters, make posts live, activity on social media, what type of content to share, and even the style of writing to be used.

Three Ways You Can Utilize Audience Intel

  1. Take a look at your audience geographically and think about if that impacts what you share and when. For example, my site is a nutrition/food blog so I have to be aware that the majority of my audience is in the opposite season to me. Depending on your niche, this can make a big difference to the type of content you share.
  2. If your bounce rate is high take a look at your audience age, gender, and interests and think about your message to market match. Meaning is the message you’re sharing matching the market you’re sharing to? Chances are if your bounce rate is high, you could work on improving it.
  3. Are people visiting your site from mobile devices? Do you have a mobile friendly site? What you will likely find is that a large majority of your site visitors visit via mobile, so I think it goes without saying that mobile friendly is a must.

Acquisition: Where Our Traffic Is Coming From

Now we know a bit more about who our site visitors are, we can turn to learning about where they are coming from. So go ahead and click on ‘Acquisition’, you’ll see quite a few sections listed here but all we need to delve into right now is the ‘Overview’ section.

You can find everything you need from this section, and though you can explore some other sections, you’ll find there is a lot of overlap. So for simplicity sake, let’s just stick with the overview.

DMP-GA-stats-begin
Traffic Sources within Google Analytics

As you can see from the image above, this is where we will start to see where our traffic is coming from, and it will be broken down into four sections: Direct, Referral, Social, and Organic.

So let’s break these down a little more.

Direct – direct users of your site have no recorded browser history and come from typing your site link directly into a search engine. Some of these stats can also be you visiting your own site, which is likely the case with my stats above. You can use a filter to exclude internal traffic, junk and bots, which is recommended, but it’s a bit too technical for this tutorial. If you don’t do it for now, it won’t make a ton of difference anyway. Direct traffic also includes traffic that Google can’t track in any of the other categories.

Referral – referrals from other sites that are linking to or sharing your content.

Social – shows you which social sites your traffic is coming from – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Organic – the keywords people are using to find your site via search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so forth.

I really like the ‘Acquisition’ section because just digging into these four sections a little more closely can really help us in lots of ways. And when you get a bit more skilled you can track a little closer by setting specific goals.

Three Ways We Can Utilize Acquisition Info

  1. Open up the ‘Social’ section and you’ll see a breakdown on where your traffic is coming from socially. You can find out which one is the most popular referrer for your niche, and spend more of your time working on that specific social platform rather than waste your energy elsewhere. For example: I discovered that Pinterest was great for sharing nutrition/ food content, so I stopped spending so much time on Facebook and concentrated on building my Pinterest profile instead. You can also rediscover posts that are popular on social media and reshare them. If you want to you can create segments to track specific social media stats, it’s not essential but can help you track a little closer.
  2. Take notice of your ‘Referral’ traffic and connect with the people who are sharing your stuff. For example: You can go thank them for sharing it, share their stuff back, build great relationships, and see if you can work together in mutually beneficial ways.
  3. Open up the ‘Organic’ section and see what kind of search terms your site is being found for and think about how you can use this in creative ways.

Using Acquisition To Grow Your Email List

Let’s drill down into point #3 a little more and I’ll share one method I’ve used on Diabetes Meal Plans to grow my email list, even though it’s only a new blog.

Once you have some posts published and you start seeing ‘Organic’ search terms appear, open them up and see what you can discover.

I wanted to create a lead magnet to help increase subscribers, so I turned to my ‘Organic’ search terms to discover what I could find.

DMP-GA-organic-stats

When you open up your ‘Organic’ search terms you will see the top 10 search terms, so think about how you can use this info.

As you can see from the search terms it was ‘blood sugar level chart’. It’s been at the top from day 1 and lots of the other terms starting to pop up now are also directly related to this search term – ‘blood sugar levels chart’, ‘diabetes blood sugar chart’, ‘diabetes sugar levels chart’. Take a look for any patterns like this that might help give you some ideas and inspiration.

DMP-BS-levels-chart-ecoverThis inspired one of my lead magnet ideas and I decided to put together a ‘downloadable blood sugar levels chart’ for my new readers. In this instance it was pretty easy. I just took the content from a post I’d already written on the subject over here.

If you have a post like this yourself, all you have to do is copy that info, paste it into a word document, convert it into a pdf, make a good image for the cover, create an eBook cover, and set up an opt in box to put on your posts.

Then you can instantly start collecting subscribers and building your list.

Think about your own acquisition stats. Is there a popular search term or set of search terms? Can you use this to write more content around that topic? Since this content is popular and being found via search engines, can you develop your ‘opt-in’ lead magnet to giveaway and encourage more subscribers?

These are just a few ideas, and as you can see there are lots of creative ways you can use your stats to help guide the actions you take to develop your blog.

Behavior: What Are Our Web Visitors Doing?

The last section we’re going to learn about today is the ‘Behavior’ section. If you click on that from the Google Analytics sidebar you will again see a long list of things from ‘Overview’ through to ‘In-page Analytics’.

In time you can delve deeper into all these sections, but for simplicity we’re only going to focus on ‘Site content’, so let’s explore that now and how you can use it.

Google-analytics-3

When you click on ‘All Pages’ it will open the list of pages being visited on your site, from most amount visited to least. So from this panel you will see what your top 10 most popular posts/ pages are on your website. You can use the arrows from the bottom right hand corner of the page to scroll through subsequent pages. Or if you want the stats on one particular page, use the search bar to find it.

That’s the great thing about these numbers, is you can be as broad or as specific as you need to be.

Using Behavior Statistics To Grow Your Blog and Business

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I identified the number one traffic page on my Good Food Eating blog to grow my list, and I did this using ‘Behavior’ stats.

It was a post about ‘How to boost weight loss’. So, I took a fresh look at the post and noticed it had no call to action and no opt-in incentive.

I added a simple eBook download and embedded that into the post by adding a call to action.

GFE-nutrition-101-guide
Example of a Blog Post Free Download Call To Action

The opt-in offer is related to the content in the post.

Seven days later, 129 people joined my list from that one blog post alone.

It’s been about eight weeks now and I have added 1,329 new subscribers on that list that I wouldn’t have had before.

If you find your top ten to twenty popular posts and do this, you will soon see your email list grow quite rapidly.

Worth the effort of a little detective work? Yes.

Worth installing Google Analytics? Absolutely!

This is just another example of how you can use your numbers to inform your actions and reap the benefits.

So there you have it.

Your guide to getting started with Google Analytics, with lots of ideas that I hope will get your creative stats juices flowing.

Closing Thoughts

Tracking your stats and using them helps you work smarter, not harder.

So if you haven’t setup your Google Analytics account yet, make a commitment to follow this tutorial from start to finish. Your numbers will be tracking in the background and you will be glad that you did spent the time to implement this, as this data will be essential to the growth of your blog.

If you do have it all setup but haven’t spent some time thinking about your numbers, now could be the perfect time to do that.

So now that you’ve read this post, are you looking forward to tracking your stats (maybe even excited about the possibilities)? Have you had some inspiring thoughts? Or do you have a few stats we can brainstorm together?

Leave your thoughts and comments below.