Several years ago I attended the Blissdom blogging conference in Nashville, TN. It was my first blogging conference and was so much fun! Then I published a series of posts from the notes I took. I consolidated these into one long post, below. If you’re interested in blogging, be sure to sign up for my monthly blogging newsletter! You get a free 100 point report with my best blogging advice, as well as monthly tips and advice. Sign up below!
BlissDom Blogging Conference notes and thoughts
Thanks to SoloSmarts, my rocking sponsor, I’m here at Blissdom ’09 and ready to share some tips from the first session of today. This session was moderated by Tanis Miller with panelists Tsh Oxenreider, and Amy Clark. The topic?
“Content & Readership – Building your Readership and Providing Amazing Content”
These moms had awesome advice for women just starting out and those who want to get more readers. Some of my favorite nuggets:
- – Be sure to buy your domain name! Don’t host your blog on a .blogspot or .wordpress subdomain. Not only does hosting your blog on your own domain present a more professional image but also someone else may snatch up your name before you do.
- – Define success for yourself. Is success getting tons of comments? Mega traffic stats? Ad revenue? Ok, so you want everyone in the world on your blog but what for? What does success look like to you? Keep your goals clear in mind.
- – Who do you want to attract? Keep your target audience firmly in mind and write for them.
- – What kind of blogger are you? Some of the panelists had more informative/magazine type of blogs, but one was firmly a mom blogger who wrote (quite candidly!) about her life. She is more of a “memoir” blogger or a “diarist”. Different people are comfortable with different levels of transparency.
- – Be succinct. Respect your readers time – this was a common refrain. While I personally value “epic” posts from time to time because of their value as traffic bait with search engines, its also a great idea to post quick bites of info that your readers can quickly digest and get back to their lives.
- Another tip that would fall under this heading is to write a “Q&A” post in which the content is in the comments. Ask your readers a question and allow them to leave comments and be the experts for a change! This is great for establishing goodwill with your readers.
- – Edit! Some of the bloggers mentioned that they spend more time editing than writing. Distill your message down as much as you can and really cull out the fluff. Again – some of this depends on your style of blog, but generally most blog readers are busy and want the meat of the info to be quickly and easily digested.
- – Write evergreen content. If your reader is finding you through a search engine, some of your content may not make sense to them if everything is time sensitive. Timeless content is a great traffic generation tool.
- – Keep SEO in mind. Keep search engines in mind when you write for your blog. For example, name the graphics that you add to your blog keyword friendly names (another point not mentioned but certainly worthy is to add ALT tags to your images) since Google indexes these.
- – Use your time wisely. Some of the bloggers on the panel said they only blog certain days of the week, or only on weekends. They write lots of posts and schedule them to publish on their blogs so they can maximize the time they spend with their families. This is a great tip for us busy moms!
- – Republish! Republish some of your great content. For instance, create posts that list and link to all the posts you’ve done on a particular topic.
- – Get help creating content. Whether it’s inviting guest bloggers or hiring them, get some help with your blog. Figure out what and whom you want and create a page on your blog describing how guest bloggers or columnists can submit their work to you.
- – Keep your reader in mind when you write. Be helpful to your reader.
- – Blog for you, not for them. Stop worry about what they think and blog for the pleasure of it.
Ok, ok, I know those last two contradicted each other! There really are no rules. It goes back to figuring out what kind of blogger you are. We’re all making this up as we go along!
Also, I’ll end on this point. One of the panelists said that she worked very hard getting readers and content to her blog for the first 18 months or so. I think this is quite common. With blogging or any other internet business, the hard work is on the front end.
So hang in there, and get busy writing and creating great content!
Blissdom Notes: On Social Media and Mom Bloggers
I’m so self sacrificing.
I only had 3 hours of sleep last night, but I am up typing out notes from yesterday’s second Blissdom session which was all about: social media.
I am a dedicated blogger after all. 😉
One of the things someone mentioned yesterday is that if you want to have loyal readers, be a loyal blogger. If you don’t show up for work (blog), you’ve disappointed your readers. They showed up to read your stuff, the least you can do is to post something.
The ladies mentioned StumbleUpon and Tumblr, but most of the conversation seemed to revolve around Twitter and Facebook. (This was 2009. There was no Pinterest!)
The ladies talked about the benefits of syndicating your content, and the issue of duplicate content came up. I stood up and said my piece about that issue. I’ve written briefly about that before here and there. Basically I said duplicate content was misunderstood and that if you’re worried about it, you’re not doing it.
Sites like EzineArticles.com and news sites that report the same stories and curation sites get awesome search engine rankings and they’re full of duplicate content. If you’re in doubt, read Google’s guidelines for webmasters and see what they say on the issue.
If you find a “scraper” site who is stealing your content without your permission, contact the website owner and send them a firm cease and desist email. One way to keep abreast of this is to use Google Alerts, which I am a big fan of for several reasons, this being one.
Twitter and Mom Bloggers
Much of the conversation revolved around Twitter which seems to be every mom blogger’s favorite social media tool.
[Update: this was in the days before Pinterest, the forerunner among social media sites for mom bloggers.]
The gist of the input was that with Twitter, there really are no rules. Jessica said to think of Twitter like dating – don’t give it all away right away, tease a little.
But then Allison said that Twitter is like sex – everyone does it differently, and it’s all good. Which seems a little contradictory again. The point being that there really are no rules. Use the tools the way that works for you and your niche. (That, by the way, was pretty much everyone’s favorite quote of the day and probably the most Twittered thought from the session!)
Some of my tweets from the session:
On getting free stuff from marketing people:
@carrielwillard (moi) do not be afraid to say no to free stuff if it sucks up your time w/ less ROI #blissdom
When you first start blogging and hear about all the free stuff mom bloggers get, it’s pretty exciting. But more than one mom blogger expressed her fatigue with all the free stuff. It takes time to review and nobody wants to have nothing but reviews on her blog.
Evaluate product pitches when they come your way and see if they truly fit into your niche and are something you would actually purchase and use before accepting the item in question for review.
Conversely, if there are products or companies you want to be affiliated with, blog about them and see what happens. Jessica Knows is getting a free car for a year thanks to Ford!
(I only got a new minivan to test drive one for a week. Hmmph!)
@carrielwillard if the opps do not fit, send the PR person to another mom blogger #blissdom
If a company contacts you with a product pitch and the opportunity doesn’t fit your niche or you’re just not in the mood to review yet.another.body.lotion, send the marketing person to another mom blogger you know for whom it is a better fit.
I’ve done this myself on several occasions and have had others do it for me.
@carrielwillard some PR people do not do their homework #blissdom
This was a personal observation. As bloggers we’re really in a position to teach some of these marketing folks how stuff works. Sometimes I get product pitches and I’m all, “Didja spend five seconds actually looking at my blog?” Whatever.
If they don’t “get it” and are sending you, a mom of teens, a baby blanket to review, then try to educate them nicely about your target market. Some of them see “mom blogger” as being one generic niche but we know we are all somewhat different and speak to different audiences. Tell them what do do so they can learn something new!
@carrielwillard keep your true voice out there, opps will come (free stuff) #blissdom
If you want free stuff, just keep blogging and be yourself. Don’t change your writing for these opportunities. Keep being yourself and companies will find you.
And finally, when it comes to Facebook:
@carrielwillard re: facebook rules and annoyances. stop sending busy mom bloggers gifts on FB
No offense, but we’re too busy for ‘lil green patch requests, umkay?
A couple thoughts on networking:
It’s about authenticity and friendship, not selling.
Network “side”, “up” and “down”. Meaning reach out to bloggers who are more, less, and the same as you in terms of popularity.
Use your given name when creating social media site profiles.
Affiliate Marketing and Mom Bloggers
I talked to several women privately at the Blissdom conference who have fantastic blogs and are wonderful writers but are totally frustrated. Why? Because they aren’t making any money.
They aren’t making any money because they do not understand affiliate marketing.
If you don’t want to make any money with your blog that’s cool.
But if you do want to make money, I’m here to tell you that not only CAN you, but many of us ARE doing it and earn a full time income doing so.
My fellow Blissdom attendee and SoloSmarts member Alyssa Avant and I are proof of that, as are hundreds of women there. (Note: Alyssa and I used to be in a private networking forum called Mom Masterminds. It re-branded into Solo Masterminds and then SoloSmarts. There is no longer a forum, but the group is on Facebook, with Kelly McCausey at the helm. She has dozens of wonderful resources for online entrepreneurs.)
The affiliate marketing panel had some basic info on what affiliate marketing is and some advice on making it work for you, yet I feel that it left many women wanting. That may be because it’s impossible to say enough about affiliate marketing in such a short amount of time.
I talked to a few of these moms who were adamant about wanting to know how to earn real money – and not just get free products – with their blogs.
Affiliate Marketing and Mom Bloggers
To maximize your results from affiliate marketing, it’s imperative that you learn how to skillfully weave affiliate links into the body of your post.
While buttons and banners can and do perform, they do not perform *nearly* as well as natural, organic product mentions in your actual content.
Another effective strategy is to both write about in your posts AND put a button on your sidebar for a product you endorse. Your readers may not realize it consciously but they will understand subliminally that you mean what you say about the product if you do both things.
If you’re getting lots of free stuff from companies to review, ALWAYS check to see if they have an affiliate program and MONETIZE that post with your affiliate link.
I do this all the time and it works great. You do not need to ask permission from the company either. If you’re doing reviews for free (which I hope you’re not), you need to be benefiting in some way from the free exposure and traffic you’re giving these companies.
At the very least check Amazon to see if the product is also sold there before publishing the review. If you already have a ton of reviews on your site, go back through your posts and add affiliate links.
To maximize your results, search your stats for your ten highest traffic pages and begin there.
The panelists recommended creating “gift guides” that you release around the holidays and big shopping days. I don’t do this at all, my affiliate recommendations are evergreen in nature, but I know some that do it with great success. Maybe start there.
Another tip I tell moms that I coach is:
Look around your own home at the products you can’t live without.
Make a list of them on a piece of paper. Is it your baby sling? A favorite well worn parenting book or cookbook? Some skin care product?
Whatever it is, if you can write a compelling review, sit down and search for an affiliate program for that product and get busy writing.
Here are some of my favorite resources for information on affiliate marketing.
Lynn Terry’s blog Clicknewz. It was Lynn who inspired me to launch my very first niche affiliate site in 2004 (yep! that long ago!). It was a great success and proved to me that a system works if you work it. If you’re brand new to the internet marketing world, some of her posts may seem a little hard to understand, but she is great at linking back to some of her 101/how to posts for beginners.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is a complete education on the topic. I used this course in early 2017 and it really exploded my traffic and doubled my affiliate income in just a few months.
Please feel free to leave a question you have about how to make money as a mom blogger with affiliate marketing in the comments below.
Branding: You, Your Blog, Your Business
Then the next session was on branding and what that means for a blogger.
This one was great because highly respected Liz Strauss was one of the panel members. The woman has this energy around her that tells you that you can learn a lot from just standing next to her. I managed to catch her after the sessions to glean some of her wisdom. (Thanks again Liz, I’m right on that!)
When it comes to branding, the big point to remember is this:
As a blogger, YOU ARE your brand.
If you realize after some time that you want to change the direction of your blog, the advice was to:
“Do It And Do It Fast.”
Don’t be afraid to rebrand yourself to be more true to your voice. You will lose some visitors and readers, but the loyal ones will follow you and you will ultimately be more successful.
The last session of the event was Success Blogging.
I wanted to hear this one because a blogger I have long admired for her writing ability is Simple Mom’s (now Art of Simple) Tsh. I like Tsh for her focus on living simply. I am a huge minimalist myself. I love the clean look of her blog and how she stays on topic.
I also appreciate (and I would like to have stood up on the table and screamed this message at several points during the weekend) that Tsh stays true to herself and her message AND makes great money too.
It’s not an either/or proposition. You can be who you are and not “sell out” and still make great income with your blog.
Blogging and Boundaries
Tsh talked a lot about boundaries in this session and I took home some great info that I plan to implement immediately. You have to set real boundaries about how much access you will allow others to have when you have a successful blog. And while I am not as “known” in the mom blogger community, I am a successful work at home businesswoman so I am bombarded with email and contact me requests.
I need to get a little more strict with myself about that.
There was a lot of talk of:
Tsh encouraged bloggers more than once to “Network up, down and sideways.”
Meaning don’t be too intimidated to network with people who are more known than you are, and also those who are just starting out. New blogs grow, and new bloggers grow. I thought this was a great point.
A great tip for new bloggers that falls under this heading is: Make friends with another blogger who can hold you accountable.
If you’re spending too much time at the computer (or too little!), your friend can remind you of what your goals are. Tsh said she has found this in Alli Worthington (formely Mrs Fussypants), the mom behind Blissdom. If she is on the computer too late at night, Ali tells her to go to bed.
This is where I have to shout out to my Blissdom sponsor, SoloSmarts. The networking forum members there are constantly challenging each other to meet goals. It’s a great feeling of teamwork, mutual back scratching and even a good solid butt kickin’ when needed.
Tsh encouraged new bloggers to set small monthly goals that they could work towards. The goal would be different depending on what your overall idea of success is. Maybe it’s a certain number of readers, maybe it’s an income goal. Whatever it is, set those down in writing and use your accountability buddy to help you achieve them.
So that’s it folks! All my notes from BlissDom ’09. BlissDom is no longer, but it was so much fun while it lasted. My next blogging conference will be Elite Blog Academy Activate in September 2017. Stay tuned for notes from that!