Case Study On Explosive Blog Growth & Creating a Full-Time Income

by Martin

As I look to grow Studenomics I need to step outside of my comfort zone. I find myself considering many new ideas. Another thing that I need to improve is my networking with my blogging peers. There’s simply so much to learn out there. Today’s post is an example of this.

Now it’s time for our next exclusive case study on blog growth/monetization. This time I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Baker from the fastest rising blog since I can remember–  Man vs Debt.

You have a unique blogging business model. What factors attributed to you shifting away from the “traditional” Adsense model of monetizing a blog?

Baker: I made this decision early on for several reasons.

First, I just don’t like Adsense ads.  They seem spammy the far majority of the time I see them.  Many have found ways to make them blend in well, but the far majority of people don’t.

Besides my personal preference, it’s also very hard to control the type of ads.  There are some limited options, but you can find countless examples of awkward ad placements.  For example, a post about cons of credit cards may be accompanied by credit card offers.  Talking about weight loss scams, will most of the time, trigger a scammy weight loss ad.  I’d be much more in favor of featuring advertising from companies I had complete control over for this reason.

Another not-so-talked about issue I have is that it *encourages* bloggers, author, and site owners to blog about topics that pay better than others.  Bloggers are rewarded for blogging about those keywords which have better conversion rates and pay more per ad clicked.  While this is true of many revenue models, I find this “effect” is rampant on small and medium level bloggers in many niches.  I wanted to try to avoid this phenomenon and instead focus on topics that I was truly passionate about and that provided value to my readers.

Also, the pursuit of Adsense can be extremely distracting for bloggers in the first year.  There is a very, very small chance that you will make any significant money in this time frame.  For me, it’s not worth the time investment or distraction.  Not only that, but it takes up valuable space on your blog.  I choose to use the ‘valuable’ space on my blog to promote my RSS, E-mail subscriptions, and best content.  I didn’t want ads distracting from my posts or my chance to convert fans.

Lastly, I think that there are better ways to deliver value and still make money.  I think reader’s deserve better than generic ads.  I’m not against the advertising model in general, but rather generally don’t like ad networks which don’t allow complete control.  You can approach advertisers directly or use affiliate networks to promote only those companies of value and that you endorse.

I’ve chosen to affiliate with a small handful of companies and my own information products. When I produce the product the buck stops with me.  If I deliver value, the fans of my free content will buy.  If I don’t, they won’t.  I have complete control, which I like.  This certainly isn’t a new model, but it’s one I personally find much more appealing!

What activities have generated you the greatest amount of blog traffic and how did you leverage this traffic?

Everyone knows that content is king.  If you don’t produce authentic, valuable, and entertaining content…  you will probably fail.  In almost all cases, you need a combination of all three (exceptions are very rare it seems).

But besides content there are a lot of other techniques I used.

Networking with influential bloggers in my niche was by far the most valuable.  There are many tips for this, but one of my best is to just become a passionate member of their community.  Research their sites, respond to them on twitter, leave passionate comments (not just “great post”), and support their side projects.

In my experience, even the biggest, most popular bloggers know who is genuinely giving them support.  They all read their comments, see most of their @ replies, and notice when someone is going out of their way to provide value to their communities.  Over time, the more your name pops up in a genuine way, the more likely they are to help you gain exposure.

As far as guest posting goes, my philosophy has always been to aim high.  1 guest post on a larger blog is worth 20 guest posts on small and medium blogs.  This is not only because of the traffic, but also because of the brand association for being featured on a prominent blog.  Research the site well, and pour your heart into provide actionable, relevant information.  Don’t assume you are too small… that would be a huge mistake.

Lastly, on leveraging traffic, whenever you *do* get a major surge of traffic, I suggest editing the beginning of the post with a message like:

“Welcome readers of XYZ blog, thanks for stopping by!  While your here don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or E-mail for my free blog updates.”

Of course you would link the text straight to your subscription pages.  I did this for EVERY major link for the first 3 or 4 months.  I do it less often now, but in the case of a large guest post or link these days, I’ll create an entire introduction post (if I know it’s coming).  This will be a small post which will be what many of the new visitors see and contains internal links to all my best content and my about page.  A custom welcome message goes a long way in increasing the amount of people who stick around.

The only other tip I have is to return every e-mail and thank every first-time commentor.  Take the time to send them a special e-mail (not 100% cookie-cutter or automated).  They took the time to not only read and comment.  They added tangible value to your site, the least you can to is reach out to them.  This helped me build up my repeat commentors very quickly on my own site.

It’s a lot of hard work, but those are some of the highest leverage activities I used when getting started!

I hope you enjoyed this piece!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Edward - If You Can Read, You Can Cook

I have AdSense ads on my blogs as a means of generating at least some income until I’ve grown large enough to be able to have other income sources. I have to say, I wasn’t even aware that bloggers wrote content directed at attracting higher paying ads. I don’t even see the ads on my computer. Advertising rates don’t even figure into what I plan my content around. My main concern is actually to not duplicate too much content between the blog and the cookbook.

I really like the idea of appending a welcome message to the current post when I get a surge of traffic; I’ll have to try that.

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2 Martyn Chamberlin...

Let me just add my two cents about how Adam Baker has done so well.

He’s a nice all around guy, not pushy about anything. When I first began following him a few months back, he didn’t act like his blog was his job. In fact, I thought it was just a hobby that he had, and every now and then he made a buck or two. I found that appealing. It’s taken me a long time to realize just how serious he is about his business! He’s also naturally good – incredibly good- at what he does. He puts lots of work into every piece of content he ships, but he acts like it’s just a casual something he did for fun. And the people just flock to hear him.

And like he says here, he answers email. I’m grateful for that! So many don’t do that.

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