Client name: Elysa Ellis
Website links: http://www.genpink.com/
About page link or bio listed elsewhere: http://www.genpink.com/about/
Transcript of Our Interview:
Thanks for coming today. So a lot of people think that it’s easy to start a blog and make a living off of it, but there are actually a lot of different factors that go into it. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the challenges that you faced in growing your blog into a business and some things that people might not be thinking about?
Well first of all, I started my first blog over 10 years ago on the second one eight years ago so the actual technical part of doing the setup is something that I think a lot of people underestimate. Even now, if you’re going to start today, you have to decide which platform you want to be on. WordPress and Squarespace and Wix and I don’t even know what all the other choices are cause I haven’t done that research in eight-plus years. But I think there are two buckets. You need the technical knowledge to get the actual outlet going, and then you need an idea, a topic, a content cadence, kind of a big picture plan. I think a lot of people just jump in. Their like, I like writing, I’ll figure it out. Maybe they start on a free site, but then they don’t even technically own the traffic over there because they chose a free blogging platform where the traffic isn’t traveling with you if you decide to do something later. So I think before even starting, choosing a domain name, owning the domain name, and unfortunately spending a little bit of investment on getting the actual platform and technology set up is the first step before even starting.
Yeah, that’s great. And really good advice. Things that you said, people get excited, they like writing and kind of throw themselves into it without thinking about those beginning steps. That’s definitely really important. Another thing that has come up working with people who are starting blogs is the idea that the industry might be kind of washed out. There are a lot of people who do start blogs and are trying to make businesses out of them. Do you still think that this is a viable option for a business, or is it just too busy of an industry to break into?
I think it really depends on what your niche is and how much information you’re already giving to your existing customers. If you’re hyper-local in one specific city, then there’s always going to be something that’s changing and always new insight, new business openings, or special events. So I think in that space it’s definitely not too saturated because everyone’s gonna have a different perspective. I think if your niche, especially cause we’re coming into a new year, is yoga, and you’re trying to sell a course, then maybe you do have to be a little bit more specific. That might be yoga for teenagers, I don’t know, and having a sub-niche is really helpful. The other option is if it is a really, really broad genre, you instead of taking the time to rewrite fresh content because there is already going to be so much, you could treat your blog as more a conversation and source. So we like cooking and we have a food blog, but instead of trying to spend three hours making our own recipe we could say, here are 10 recipes for this particular dish, and we pulled them from the top resources and we asked them for permission to reshare. So I think even if you’re genre is saturated, there’s a way to kind of contribute to the conversation.
That’s great. So whether you are doing something brand new or you are doing something that kind of already exists out there, in order to take that blog and make it something that people are following and to get to build a community around it, can you tell me some of the things that you found that are key components to building a community with that blog?
Sure. I think there are five or six major social networks and sometimes when people start something new, they think I need to claim the Facebook page, Instagram page, or Pinterest profile and Twitter, maybe make two Twitter accounts and an email list. I actually would recommend picking whatever social channel that speaks more to you. If you’re really into photography and live video, then I would start with Instagram. If you’re really into short snippets or researching articles, I might start with Twitter. The same thing with Pinterest, if you really like curating, I would probably choose that as the place to start. And then I think as you see how well it’s working, just one specific social channel, then you can test and move forward.
If you’re writing long-form content and you are putting it all out and you did decide to create all five social channels, you’re putting the same content in all five places, people actually unsubscribe from all of it. So, rather than having a really dedicated audience on Instagram who is loyal and anytime you post an Instagram and say, Hey, we’ve got a new blog post over here, go read it. You’ve actually kind of watered on your own message for the people kind of subconsciously go, huh, I think I already saw that and they probably didn’t read it. They didn’t click on it, but they saw it in their Facebook feed and then they saw on Instagram and hour or so later. Pinterest is one channel that I really think even if someone’s not really focused on it, is worth even a few hours a week. Because it’s the most timeless of all platforms. Some of my top pins are from a blog post I wrote eight, nine years ago and that just doesn’t happen on any of the other social channels.
You can actively go in and reshare your old content on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. But Pinterest, I’m not even touching it. I’m not resharing my new year’s resolution post that I wrote eight years ago. People are just searching for that topic and it is coming right back up. So that would be my first bit of advice is to pick a social channel that really speaks to you.
The second one is to find some other businesses and bloggers who are in your vertical but maybe not direct competitors. For example, our son is adopted, and I was talking to our adoption agency about marketing. A Texas adoption agency might go look and see what’s working well for an Arkansas adoption agency. So they’re not direct competitors there. Their audiences are actually right there in their Metro, but they could go and see, Oh, I really liked this visual style or I like how often they’re doing this article type, even just what they’re sharing on Facebook, maybe where they’re pulling from. It might give you some ideas of where to carry from. But I think the other thing is to go look at kind of friendly sources. So I don’t recommend looking at your competitors cause you kind of could inadvertently copy them. But I think to go and look at somebody who, if you’re a say, landscape person, then maybe you go look at someone else who is a plumber because you have a similar overlapping audience. And I think that’s a good way to just get inspiration and see what people are talking about and see what kind of communities they’re able to build. And sometimes you can even kind of join together. There might be several people who are in a similar industry who want to share marketing resources.
Absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s super valuable. No matter how long you’ve been in business, but especially in the beginning when there are so many different things you’re trying to figure out, how you want to set it up, what you want to say, it’s really helpful to look at what other people have already done and get a leg up and not have to create everything completely from scratch. I like that. And also to your first point, I think that a lot of building a blog and building a community of any kind is consistency and what you’re putting out there. And it’s a lot harder to be consistent in whatever you’re doing if you spread yourself too thin, over too many outlets. So I really like the tip of finding what you’re good at, what you like and focusing there.
Yeah, I agree. The consistency. And the other thing I would add on top of consistency is some sort of cadence. If you decide that you have a new series that you want to do and you have 10 ideas but it didn’t make sense for it to go all year long, so you might want to do that only once a month. If you are real gung ho and, and off the bat you can come up with 30, 40, 50 topic ideas. You’re not gonna actually sit down, obviously, and write 50 topics at once. But that could be another way to say, Oh, actually we have enough to fill our whole content calendar to do this every Monday. And I know in the way that my brain works, I get really, I call it volt processing. I get excited to sit down and go, here’s a new idea I have, and then how can we spread it out? And that really helps with delegating.
For me personally, I can fairly easily sit down and say, here’s a new thing I want to launch, I want to do it every month. And then by about the third month I’m like, okay, well I know we were going to do that every month, but I got tired of talking about that now. But my readers are used to it. So that’s where I kind of go back to your team to say, Hey, this is what we’re doing every month. Oh look at my Pinterest board where I’ve already pulled all these ideas that are seasonal and can you guys help turn it into a longer form blog post? So it’s a combination of my own research that may be past me did and then my workload in my current state or even just honestly my interest level because I got bored of that topic cause I researched it a year ago.
Yeah, definitely. That’s great. Awesome. My last question is about advice. I was wondering if you had any advice that you would offer to someone who’s starting a blog hoping to make it more than a personal passion project?
Yeah, I think that there are a lot of ways to make money in the blogging industry and I think a lot of newbies jump on and they find people in their vertical that have a really large following and they think that’s where they have to be. I mean, I can think of home decor bloggers that have 185,000 Instagram followers. So if I’m just starting brand new it might be overwhelming to jump on there and see that person has got that many Instagram and just as many Facebook and maybe even that many on YouTube. So I think that comparison game is really not helpful at all, no matter what stage you’re at in the blogging world. But setting some goals. So maybe if your goal is, I’ll kind of know I’ve made it if I get to have a sponsorship with XYZ brand or all, I’ll know I’ve made it if this person who is kind of expert in the space, has acknowledged or reshared my content. You can set your own goals that are monetary or brand-specific or even kind of collaborative.
I think there’s a lot of opportunities to decide what success looks like for you from the beginning. And then you can reassess it every year, make a new year’s resolutions that are kind of focused on your business. I know for us next year, one of our blogs is a lot more geo, like hyperlocal focused in one specific city. And so one of our goals for 2020 is to expand it into some other cities. So we are, we want to make a plan on how we’re going to do that. And then we’ll decide is our goal to make money up first or is our goal brand recognition first? We do, we need to make just a little bit of money every month to sustain the work that goes into it. Or maybe we say, Hey, the first five months we are just building content. And then at the six-month mark we’ll make a new financial plan.
All of it is a lot bigger picture, taking a step back and I do a lot of spreadsheets and you kind of do doodling. I think having a path of what your goal is and then how will you know that you’ve met that goal. It really applies to any business but I think it really applies online cause it can very easily get distracted by, I don’t have followers here or I do have followers or this one post got a lot of comments and so now I’m going to do this type of post all the time. It all needs to go back to whatever your goal is. And you can change your goal, you can change your goal at any point in time. I remember one of the first kinds of big publicity I got as a blogger made me reassess. And the article tactical was something to the effect of Top Ten Insert Category Blogger, and I was like, huh, I don’t know if I want to categorize myself. And so since I was getting new press and it was tagging me specifically as this category of blogger, I ran with it and I added more content around that specific thing. And I think that’s helpful. Whether or not you’re tying it back to a specific business or just the blogging as a goal.
There are a lot of people who blog that for them they just want to review products. And that’s a way that you don’t necessarily get paid in cash money, but you can get paid in products that you maybe were going to purchase anyway. Or maybe it’s just that’s the topic that interests you. I know someone who’s very narrow in that they only review children’s books and I have a feeling they probably only review children’s books that are in the age group of their children. So that doesn’t mean in the future, some book publishing companies just going to add you to their list and say, “Hey, we saw you review books. Can we send you a comic book for an adult?” The answer might be no, we only read children’s books.
It all goes back to what you’re trying to accomplish and what your big picture is and how you choose to expand and grow with it. I ran into that with my lifestyle blog cause I started it 12 years ago. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have any children and I was very adamant that I was not a mommy blogger. And then many, many years later I became a mom and I’m like, huh, well now I want a place to talk about mom stuff, and comic books, and puzzles and okay, I get to reinvent what that looks like and decide how that fits in my current life. Even though Google still says some of my top posts are what content you put on your resume. So it’s kind of a trade-off of you can reinvent yourself, but you also have to pay attention to where your traffic is coming from and, and what people are searching for when they’re on your site, how they got there.
Yeah, definitely great advice for any business is it’s a constant evolution and there’s a lot of different factors to pay attention to, and you grow and you learn and you become something different than you thought you would.
Yeah. And that is every business
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me. I think that’s very helpful and I’m excited to share this interview.
Great. Thank you.