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A few months back, I was tagged for a blogging challenge called “The Sunshine Blogger Award” on a blog called Nerdy Momsy, and I thought I would post my response here at The Blogging About Blogging Blog instead of at RV Inspiration to give my subscribers here a chance to get to know me a little better. I won’t post all the original rules or tag any specific people, but if you’re interested in playing feel free to consider yourself tagged and take a look at the rules here.
As I mentioned in a similar post I wrote called 7 Things About Me, I feel obligated to mention that there is a potential risk associated with participating in “Blogger Awards” on a regular basis. If you’re constantly linking to other bloggers who are also linking back to you in return, it’s possible that Google might view this as a “link scheme” (an organized plan for getting other bloggers to link back to your blog in order to improve your search engine ranking, which is strictly prohibited by Google). You can avoid this risk by changing any links to other bloggers in the blogging challenge from a “do-follow” link to a “no-follow” link, which keeps it from “counting” in Google. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can learn more about no-follow and do-follow links here.)
However, I thought the questions Nerdy Momsy asked me were really good, and the perfect sort of thing to share on TheBloggingAboutBloggingBlog, so I was excited to have a chance to answer these questions!
1. What is your brand?
My first brand (the one I was tagged in for this post) was RV Inspiration. I have worked really hard to make that website the go-to resource for people who are looking for any kind of ideas pertaining to RV interiors: organization ideas, decorating ideas, renovation ideas, etc.
This year I’m starting two new blogs, this one, and another one called Inspired to Downsize, and I’ll be crafting a unique brand for each of them. With Inspired to Downsize, I’ll be blogging about the topics I teach about in my course by the same name: how to sort through and get rid of unneeded belongings in order to move into a smaller home (or RV!), prepare for retirement and aging, or simply adopt a more minimalistic lifestyle.
And with The Blogging About Bogging Blog, I’m hoping to be able to pass the tools and techniques I’ve learned about from my own experience with blogging along to other bloggers! I love helping people, and really all of my websites centralize around that: providing resources and education to people who are looking for help with the same things I’ve already had a little experience with.
2. What do you want people to know about your blog, website, or mission?
I always take a proactive, positive, problem-solving approach to everything in life, and I apply that to the topics I blog about. I really like quotes like, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” because they express how I view just about any endeavor or problem I run into. I want people to know that whenever they’re wondering if a thing is possible (whether it’s an RV renovation project or turning a blog into a profitable business) it’s not a matter of “if” but “how” (and also, “how badly do you want it?”).
3. If you make money from your blog, how are you doing it? How long did it take to start making money? Can you live off of it?
I worked on building RV Inspiration full time (probably 5-7 hours per day on average) for about six months before I made my first $30 or so through Amazon affiliate sales. Then my traffic started taking off and my Amazon revenue started going up by about $100/month over the next six months or so. I tried a few things along the way, like writing a short ebook and starting a Zazzle store, but these never made me enough money for me to continue focusing on them. I also tried creating banner ads to some products and companies I was an affiliate for, and while I got a few clicks, none of these converted to sales.
Finally, after I’d been blogging for about a year, I decided to try an ad network, Ezoic, and, lo and behold, was able to start generating about $1.5k-$2k/month in ad revenue overnight. The key here, though, was that I already had enough blog traffic to make the ads worth it – about 140k pageviews/month at the time. Now I’m looking for ways to diversify as well as increase my income so that I’m not fully reliant on ads.
4. What is your best advice for others regarding blogging and getting started?
If you’re wanting to make money blogging, it’s absolutely essential to view your blog posts as a product. It’s easy to think of a blog as a personal diary (which is fine if you’re blogging for fun, but isn’t likely to interest anyone but a small handful of your most loyal followers unless it’s also relevant to them in some way) or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, to get so focused on making money that your articles come off as salesy (like you just wrote them as a vehicle for affiliate links).
Every blog post you write should be written with the goal of benefitting your intended audience in some way. If, and only if, your readers receive value from what you write, will they be willing to pay you for it (whether by clicking your affiliate link, singing up for your email list, or staying on your page long enough for you to get some ad income).
If your readers receive value from what you write, they be willing to pay you for it (directly or indirectly).
5. What’s your favorite WordPress plugin and why? If you don’t use WordPress, what is your favorite blogging tool?
I don’t really have just one favorite as there are several that are really essential, but here are a few of my favorites that have saved me a lot of time that you’re probably not as likely to already know about:
- FMTC Affiliate Disclosure – If you use affiliate links on your blog, this plugin will automatically put your legal disclaimer at the top of every blog post so you don’t have to add it manually each time.
- Forget About Shortcode Buttons – This plugin will let you easily add a nicely styled, clickable button to any post or webpage, directly from the text editor.
- Insert Headers and Footers – A lot of tools like Google Analytics and Pinterest require you to “paste this code into your theme’s header” (or footer). Some themes include a field where you can paste that code easily without having to edit the actual code, but if yours doesn’t, this plugin will give you a place to do that.
You can read about some of my other favorite plugins in this blog post.
Yes! And they save me SO much time that I wholeheartedly recommend using them as soon as you can afford them so you can focus on one thing at a time without altogether neglecting other important aspects of your business.
Here are the ones I use:
- SmarterQueue – If I could only pick one to use, this would be it. I use it for Facebook and Twitter, but you can also use it for Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Not only does it let you schedule posts in advance, it also recycles those posts by re-publishing them after you’ve gone through everything in your queue. Of course you control what is posted and when, and you can also set up categories of content that post at different frequencies or seasonally (only at Christmas, for example). You can also bulk import content from other blogs in your niche to create posts from. Once you get some initial content loaded in, then your social media accounts will be consistently sharing fresh, relevant content on autopilot. You can get a free month trial through my referral link.
- Buffer – Similar to SmarterQueue, but without the post recycling feature. I still use the free version (which only lets you have 5 posts per account scheduled at one time) for when I come across content I want to share right away, so that way it won’t distract from something else that may have just been posted by SmarterQueue. If you absolutely can’t afford to pay for any social media scheduling tools yet, this one can at least help you make social sharing a weekly rather than daily task.
- Later.com – I use this one for Instagram, although it can also be used for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (but without the post recycling feature). I prefer it for Instagram because it’s more suited for sharing photos, and it also allows me to schedule multi-photo Instagram posts and stories.
- Tailwind – I don’t really think of it as a social media tool because I don’t think of Pinterest as social media, but it is a scheduling tool that I found to be worth paying for sooner rather than later. To be able to spend about one hour per month scheduling posts for Pinterest AND to have my Pinterest account constantly pumping out highly relevant content means that this tool has literally paid for itself many times over. Here’s my affiliate link if you’re interested in trying it out for free.
I will add, I actually tested some of the more expensive social media schedulers (including Hootsuite and AgoraPulse), fully planning to pay for their $99/month version if I felt they would meet my needs, but none of them offered every feature I was looking for, so for me it made more sense to use a few different (cheaper) tools that were really good at one thing rather than trying to use one expensive tool for everything.
7. How do you promote your blog? Do you use any special tools? Do you pay to promote it?
Starting out I promoted my blog by sharing relevant and helpful blog posts in Facebook groups that allowed it (I was very careful not to abuse this privilege and to only share posts that I KNEW people would find extremely helpful.) I promote my blog on social media using the tools I mentioned above, and I also promote it in Instagram stories through my Instagram account, Instagram.com/RVinspiration, which allows URLs to be added to the stories because it has over 10k followers. But I get relatively few clicks from social media compared with Pinterest.
So far I have not paid to promote my blog because I need to be able to measure how much revenue I’ll earn per click before I can determine how much it makes sense to pay per click, and most paid promotions don’t result in income unless you’re driving traffic to a specific lead generation funnel (for example, a freebie related to a product you’re selling). Those are things I’ll be experimenting with later this year.
8. Do you use Pinterest, Quora, Reddit, or other sites to drive traffic to your website? How do you do it?
About 90% of RV Inspiration’s traffic comes from Pinterest. In October of 2017 I took a great (affordable!) Pinterest and Tailwind training course by RV blogger Bryanna Royal, and even though I had already been using Pinterest and Tailwind and wasn’t sure how much extra I could really get out of the course, there were just a few key tweaks I needed to make that together ended up making a huge difference for me.
However, Pinterest might not be the best traffic source for everyone; it really just depends on if your content is something Pinterest users are looking for. The important thing is to know where your audience hangs out and to be visible to them there. For example, a finance blogger might find LinkedIn or Twitter a better place to build a solid presence, and lifestyle bloggers might find their community on Instagram or Reddit.
I have posted on Quora some in the past and get a few clicks each month from those posts, so I can see how that strategy could work. I also know niche-specific forums can be a good source of traffic, but that’s not something I’ve pursued yet. I haven’t tried Reddit because at the time I started my blog there weren’t any substantial communities there related to my niche, but it would probably worth going back there now to check (or possibly even starting one myself).
In November of last year (2018) I took an SEO course, and since then have slowly but surely started seeing my organic (search engine) traffic increase. Continuing to grow that is one of my goals for this year because I know it’s one of the best over the long term and there’s more of a science to it; I’ve felt like other traffic sources like Pinterest involve a lot of throwing stuff at them to see what sticks.
9. Does your blog act as a marketing tool for other business activities or is it stand alone? If it’s only part of the platform, what is your bigger picture?
RV Inspiration pretty much stands alone as its own business, although I do intend to market my new blogs to my audience there. I’m sure I’ll rely pretty heavily on RV Inspiration to help me get my new blogs off the ground, but once they have gained some momentum, they will pretty much be their own thing as well. And really, they aren’t blogs. They are all niche websites, and I hope to create more of them in the future around a few different topics I’m interested in. That way I won’t be fully dependent on any one website for income.
I do know other bloggers who use their blogs more as a support piece for their other business endeavors, however. For example, I know a few RV bloggers who do paid speaking gigs at RV shows and events, and I know a few who have ended up launching a separate business as a direct result of building an audience and connecting with others in their niche and discovering a need they could offer services to fill. A couple of specific examples to show you what I mean:
- Camille Attell started her blog MoreThanAWheelin.com as a blog about her own RV travels, but it later evolved into a platform where she helps people find remote work to fund their full time RV lifestyle, and she now sells an online course called Remote Work 101 and coaching which are the core of her business.
- Bryanna Royal has a travel blog called CrazyFamilyAdventure.com, but she ended up starting a separate business offering services to other bloggers and businesses as a virtual assistant. (She also offers an online course about how to start a virtual business using the same skills you develop as a blogger, if you’re looking for a way to supplement your blogging income.)
10. Do you have a mailing list? How do you use it? (I’m really very interested in this answer!)
YES. In fact, my email list has evolved to be the most valuable part of my business. If Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram were to shut down tomorrow, and if RV Inspiration were to somehow disappear, I would still have a business because of my email list, because at any time I could start a new blog or create a new product or sell a new affiliate product and launch any or all of those things to my subscribers.
The key to this is 1) making sure the people on your list are on it because they’re interested in you and your brand (not because they put in their “extra” email address just so they could get some free download you offered them that has nothing to do with the things you blog about), and 2) Grouping the people on your list based on their interests so that you can later target them with offers they are likely to be interested in (and increase your email open rate by only sending emails to people who are likely to open them).
Example: If I send out an email linking to a blog post about RVing with Cats, then everyone who clicks the link to the blog post is tagged as being interested in cats. Later, if I come across a great affiliate product that might interest cat owners, I can send an email about it that will only go to people I know are interested in cats, without bothering the people on my list who aren’t interested in cats and potentially make them unsubscribe. And if I end up getting hundreds of people on my list who are interested in cats, maybe one day that could evolve into a whole new blog all about cats. In fact, having lots of people on my email list who were interested in learning about blogging is the reason I started this blog!
You might be wondering how I tag people who click certain links. That’s something I do using ConvertKit.com, my email provider. When I first started out, I used MailChimp, which is a great free option to start with and I think has actually added some features since I left, but I definitely love ConvertKit for making email marketing (including forms that offer a freebie and feed directly into an automated email sequence!) super easy.
11. Do you teach classes or workshops? Where can I find you? How did you get started in that?
For now my plan is to share tips and resources to my blog readers and email subscribers, but eventually I hope to be able to offer more training, such as courses and perhaps even consulting. If you sign up for my email list (which you can do below), I’ll soon be sending out emails with (free) training, and I’ll also let you know when those other things become available!