Darren Rowse, Interview With A Pro Blogger
Darren Rowse is perhaps the most famous full time Blogger in the area of helping other bloggers add income streams to their blogs. Today it is a real privilege and pleasure to do an interview with a personal hero of mine – Darren Rowse.
Darren Rowse, perhaps more than anyone else in my opinion has led the way in bringing professionalism to the area of online blog publishing.
Thank you Darren for a great interview.
First off – can we have a little background information on Darren – Where you live? How old you are? What motivates you? What inspires you?
I live in Melbourne Australia where I live with my wife and two son’s (2 years old and we have just had a baby boy). I’m 36 years old.
What motivates me? My passions revolve around building community and communication – two things that I think blogging is great at.
What inspires me? There are many things and people that I find inspiring – but one of the simplest ones is to make a difference in the lives of others. I get so much energy from hearing that something I’ve said or done has helped another person in some way.
1) You are most famous as the founder of Problogger.net – tell us, how did you get started and when you did start, did you ever imagine it would become as successful as it has? (What were your original goals for Problogger.net?)
I started blogging five and a half years ago. At that time I didn’t even have an inkling that I’d blog for money – it was just a hobby. After a year I began to experiment a little with advertising and affiliate programs on my blogs and discovered that they could actually make money! I began to search the web for advice on the topic but found very little that was written specifically for bloggers.
I began to record the things I was learning on the topic of making money from blogging on my personal blog (it was a category called ‘blogging tips’). The more I wrote the more I found that other bloggers were beginning to have their eyes opened to making money from blogs and were searching for tips and advice also. My blog tips became quite popular and I began to have the idea for a blog dedicated to the topic. ProBlogger was born.
My original goal for ProBlogger was to record my journey of learning about blogging professionally, to meet other bloggers on the journey and to create a community where we helped each other achieve more.
I didn’t really know what ProBlogger would end up achieving however I did know that it was a topic that would grow and so I worked hard to position myself as someone who spoke authoritatively on the topic. Being one of the first to the topic helped a lot – but so did the fact that I’ve shared everything that I learned on the topic and have written daily for three and a half years.
2) Problogger.net has now grown to become the No 1 Authoritative website on the subject of blogging – can you highlight anything in particular / a policy or approach that led to this happening? To put it another way, there are plenty of websites on blogging, what made yours stand out?
There are a number of factors – some of which I’ve already mentioned:
• I was among the first to the topic of blogging about making money from blogging
• I stuck at my topic over the long haul – I’ve got over 4000 posts in my archives
• I shared freely what I knew on the topic
• I concentrated on writing as much practical content as I could (things that people could go away and DO)
• I had success in the topic I was writing about (reaching the point of going full time as a blogger brought credibility)
• I had some luck along the way
• I always tried to provide a realistic – no bull – kind of approach to the topic rather than hype (more on this below)
3) I was reading http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/04/04/how-much-do-i-earn-from-blogging/ . I have to say, I am very impressed with your honesty and your “no hype” style. I imagine that this position is very much based on your personal values, but tell us, how do you feel when you see so much hype about making money online – do you feel it is often exaggerated?
There is quite a bit of hype on the topic of making money online. I have mixed reactions towards it:
For starters it angers me. I get emails regularly from readers who see the hype and fall for it. They buy into something with expectations of fast riches and make silly decisions as a result. I’ve seen examples of bloggers quitting their jobs to go full time as bloggers before earning anything from blogging, marriages break down, people in real financial trouble as a result of hyped up and dubious advice. This makes me quite mad.
On the other side of things I sometimes have to chuckle at the tactic of hype that some other bloggers in my niche get into because I think it’s a pretty dumb move on their part strategically. The thing is that when you hype up a topic beyond reality it doesn’t take long for a reader to realize what you’re doing. When you create an expectation in the mind of someone that isn’t met it often comes back to bite you. While I don’t like the impact it has on those reading the hype when I see other bloggers getting into it makes me wonder how long their blog will last.
4) If someone is new to blogging and are looking to make money from blogging, what advice / tips would you offer?
There’s so much to say. As I’ve mentioned above I’ve written 4000 or so posts on the topic at ProBlogger and have recently released a book with Chris Garrett on the topic called ProBlogger.
• Don’t give up your day job! Seriously – take a long term view of the task because it isn’t something you’re going to grow rich from in the short term (and the stats say the majority of bloggers won’t grow rich at all). So enter into it with realistic expectations.
• Having said that – blogging isn’t about growing rich – it’s about communicating on a topic that you enjoy, have a passion for and want to connect with others on. So pick a topic that reflects who you are.
• Write something unique – there are millions of blogs out there – the ones that are most successful almost always do something unique to stand out from the crowd
• Produce something useful – don’t blog about just anything – identify something that people have a need to know about and produce something that makes their lives better in some ways. It could be providing information, entertainment, opinion, community etc. Write something that is useful and you’ll find people drawn to you.
• In terms of monetization – one of the keys is to experiment. No two blogs have the same mix of monetization strategies that work in the same ways. Try different ad networks, affiliate programs and other strategies.
5) You have co-authored a book on blogging along with Chris Garrett called: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income which will be available in May 2008. Can you tell us a little about this book, why did you decide to write it and what in particular can both new and experienced bloggers expect to learn from it?
As I mentioned above – ProBlogger the Blog has over 4000 posts on it. They were all written as I learned things about blogging and monetizing blogs over the last three and a half years.
As a result, some of the older posts are dated and it’s all a little overwhelming and hard to find a logical way through as a new person to the blog.
Chris and I decided to write the book as a comprehensive and up to date guide on the topic to help give new bloggers a good introduction to the medium and to help more experienced bloggers get a broad refresher on many of the aspects of blogging that you need to run a successful blog.
The book is ideal for newer bloggers with introductions to everything from writing content, to different income streams, to Search Engine Optimization through to how to find readers.
The book is also designed for intermediate to more advanced bloggers. While it doesn’t take long to learn the basics of blogging there is always more to learn and Chris and I have shared many of the lessons that we’ve learned that helped us not only in starting blogs but taking them to the next level.
6) What are your top tips for writing a successful blog post?
• Start with a need that your readers have
• Help them overcome the need
• Share how you have done it yourself
• Give examples of how others have done it
• Ask readers to share their own experience on the topic
7) If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself as a blogger, what advice would you give yourself?
I’d probably give myself about branding. For a long while I didn’t really think about promoting my own personal brand or that of my blogs – but having started ProBlogger and seen that brand grow I wish I’d put a little more thought into that from the early days.
I would also have given myself the advice to start blogging on specific niches earlier. I started out on a blog that was very general. It covered everything form spirituality, to photography, to politics, to movies, to…. well you name it, I covered it all! I did this for over a year before realizing the power of focusing blogs upon specific topics – when I did that my blogs went to a new level.
8) Do you have any favourite business related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Before I got into blogging I was influenced by most of Seth Godin’s books, particularly Idea Virus as well as Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
9) What is the best advice you have ever been given?
I’ve had lots of good advice over the years but one was around drawing on the experiences in your past to build a future. Often we run away from our past but I think it’s there to resource us for the future.
10) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I’m sounding like a broken record here – but base it upon a need that a group of people have. Solve a problem or a group of people’s lives better in some way and you’ll create a loyal customer who is likely to pass on word about you to another person with that need.
11) If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?
My passions revolve around building community and communication. I think it’d be something around these things. Previously I was a minister of a church which picked up these themes – if it wasn’t one of those things it’d be something similar no doubt.