So because I'm not a super on-top-of-it blogger it took me a while go through my illegible notes and put this post together. I know there are already several (that are probably way more thorough). Well here's another. Too bad.
Before I delve into the glory that was Blog Podium, I first must say that Lindsay and Jen are superwomen, and I can't thank them enough for putting this together. I love that Canada has it's own mini-Alt...SO MUCH FUN. Also, I'm SO happy that I got to enjoy this day with my BFF Rach. It was so much fun explaining to people that we were real-life friends and didn't meet through our blogs.
(This is going to be a longggg post, so feel free to ignore it should you have zero interest in having a blog of your own, or improving your current blog. That being said, even if you're not interested in making money from your blog (still not sure if I am), this is still helpful info.)
I plan on sharing everything that I took from BP in this post, including a LOT of notes. But first, please allow me to have my super nerd moment and gush about Nicole.
I started reading Nicole's blog, Making It Lovely, in 2007. I remember her shop when it was open, Pink Loves Brown, (yes, I ordered personalized stationary from it, obviously) and the days when she was doing fairs and blogging about her new house (and her old apartment). I remember being so excited when she found out that she was pregnant with Eleanor. And then August. For years, I have felt like I know her...which really is the beauty of the whole blog world. So meeting her was a pretty big deal for me. And she was SO SWEET. I gave her a little present....I know, nerd alert.
This was how the day started for me....so awesome. After this, we had some time to chat with people, and then it was time for Nicole's keynote speech and the panel of experts!
Here are my notes:
Nicole Balch's Blog Podium Key Note Speech Notes
- Nicole started her blog to share her new home renovations with her husband's family, no thoughts of making a living out of it
- Her initial following came from being a part of the indie business community in Chicago (via her paper shop, Pink Loves Brown) and slowly grew from there
- She started having ads after about a year
- It has now grown to be her full time job
Getting Started with Monetizing your Blog:
- A good traffic goal to have before monetizing your blog is 10,000 views per month
- Your ads should be free initially
- Approach small businesses that you like and that you think would be a good fit with you, and your (prospective) readers, tell them you love their business, that you're starting to advertise on your blog, and would like to offer them a free ad spot
- Having ads that are a good fit is key (at all levels)
- Once traffic has grown a bit, start with low rates
- As traffic grows, you can raise your rates
- See what the market will bear....if your rates are too high people won't buy, and then you can reduce them a bit
- Talk to other (similar) bloggers about rates, most of them will share their experiences with you (it doesn't hurt to ask)
- Once you're around 50,000 views per month, you can start working with Ad Networks
- When determining your rates, keep 'Above the fold' and 'Below the fold' in mind ('Above the fold' is the space on your website that viewers see before they have scrolled down)
Types of Ads:
- Direct Sales/Boutique Ads: Small monthly ads for businesses (like etsy shops),
- Usually sold monthly, quarterly, etc.
- Good for when you're starting out
- Ad Networks: Connects bloggers with sponsors
- Manages a lot of the process for you
- Has existing relationships that can benefit you
- Increases your exposure
- Has a vested interest in you
- Takes a larger cut of the profits (40 - 70%)
- These take prominent real estate on your blog (usually above the fold)
- There can be payment delays (after a certain amount of time or after a certain dollar amount is reached)
- There is a contract, often exclusive, and a time period you agree to
- Text links: Small text link on your blog
- Nicole is not a huge fan of these
- Can 'trick' SEO, so Google doesn't like them
- Affiliate Ads: Mentioning products in a post (eg. Rewardstyle)
- Nicole likes these and uses them quite a bit, but likes to use them in a particular way
- For example, she will create a style post, work on a look, then go to a sponsor and look for something that will compliment the look
- Google Adsense: Ad program run by Google, automatic ads
- Easy for people who are just getting started
- Can take a long time to actually generate income
- When you're bigger, best to use these as a fall back, or not at all
- Sometimes it's better to fill space with a house ad (a little ad you create to direct readers to another area of your blog)
- Nicole started out with Glam Media - they approached her, had to have 100,000 views per month (at the time she had 70,000 but they made an exception)
- Martha's Circle - Nicole approached them, worked with them for a while, but her goal was always to work with Federated Media
- Switched to Federated Media and has been working with them ever since
- There are many out there, you need to find a good fit
- They all have different application standards (stat minimums, etc.) so keep that in mind when you're selecting one
- Nicole likes to use the 'Brought to you by...' approach
- No explicit mention of the product/brand within the post
- She writes about a topic relevant to the advertiser (for example, she recently did a Sponsored Post 'brought to you by' Cool Whip, and did a post about entertaining)
- Be creative with this, if an advertiser has something in mind but you want it to look different, talk to them, they may be open to other ideas
- Her readers, as well as the audience at Blog Podium, felt that these should be kept to a minimum, about twice a month (side note: I personally think Nicole does this in the best way possible, and she could get away with more, because I like this content as well, it still has her spin, but that's just me)
In-kind Sponsorship Advertising:
- A blog post features products that have been received for free by the blogger
- An example of this that Nicole shared was when she mentioned on her blog recently wanting a particular bed from Land of Nod, and they contacted her and said they would like to work with her > they furnished Eleanor's room and she posted all about the project
- You can contact companies about these opportunities
- Contact the sponsor, introduce yourself, tell them you have a project coming up and that you would like to create a proposal for them to work with them on it, ask them if they're interested
- If they are, create a full detailed proposal > not just a blog post, but a 'project', such as:
- blog post series
- facebook update
- post in a project resource area (which will be referred to forever)
Notes on the aesthetic of your blog:
- Look bigger than you are
- If you're working with a blogging template, strip it down to a minimal look and focus on having a really good header, even if it's as simple as a great photo with text over it
- Look on Etsy for people who will do inexpensive headers, templates, etc.
- Have good photos
So that was Nicole's part of the day. She was SUCH a great speaker, we all learned so much.
From there, we moved on to the panel that included Lindsay from Little House Blog, Christine of Bijou and Boheme, Cheryl of Gluckstein Home, and Laura of Tribal DBB. The moderator was Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault (who was hilarious, by the way).
SUCH brilliant ladies! This part was more conversational, but these are my general notes that I took from it all:
- To monetize your blog, start contacting little shops, tell them you want to advertise them on your blog
- Be proactive, email people, put yourself out there
- Go for this after you have about 1,000 followers
- Boutique ads - $50/mth generally
- Have 3 month minimums on these ads (looks bad if ads are constantly rotating)
- Sponsored Posts - $150 to $500
- Make sure the ads are a good fit, relevant
- Build traffic by commenting on other blogs
- Do guest posts (helps traffic)
- Claim your income! (side note:scary to think that people don't, you're crazy...)
- As a Canadian blogger, it's less likely that your blog will be your sole source
- Sponsors are looking for some key things when 'investing' in a blogger:
- Authority - Are you well-informed? Professional? Do you have a great profile page? Are you referred to on other blogs?
- Context - What's your subject? Is it relevant to their product/brand?
- Engagement - how are your readers responding to your posts? Comments?
- Reach - Stats, followers, fans, etc.
- What sponsors look for in a pitch from bloggers:
- Send via email
- Be brief
- Be familiar with the brand
- Only contact brands that are a good fit
- Remember that sponsors need to see why YOU are an opportunity for THEM
- Keep media kits under 5 mg
- Show/discuss growth over time
- Show/tell them how you are an authority on your blog topic
- Follow up (once) after about a week
- People can see it when you're just 'in it for the money'
- Social media is key, Pinterest has changed the way blogging works for some, has placed even more emphasis on original content (anyone can post pretty pictures)
- Be authentic
- Post regularly (once a day is great, or a few times a week)
- Be careful with giveaways, you don't want to be 'The Giveaway Blog'
- Note on your blog that you are Canadian
Some of the best information that I got happened in casual chats on the side throughout the day. Here's a few tidbits that I took with me:
- Be selective when it comes to blogger get togethers/groups. Make sure these are focused on your personal goals (whether it me monetizing, networking, camaraderie, etc.)
- Put yourself out there. Don't wait for people to come to you.
- If you have a shop and a blog, they can be a perfect compliment to one another. Keep your sales-y shop related posts to about 10% of your content (and be careful how you do this).
- Don't focus on the money. People will see right through it and be totally turned off. (couldn't agree more with this)
- The blog world is so over saturated now...stand out by being unique, having original content, and having a voice that people want to hear again an again. Have a personality!!
Towards the end of the day we got to enjoy AMAZING food, and wine, and chat with the sponsors, which was so much fun. OH! And there was a Smilebooth. The second the pictures are up, I'll share. Sadly I personally didn't take a ton of pics. Sorry! I was busy furiously taking notes and wishing I had an iPad so I could look like the other real bloggers.
To everyone that I met, you were all so lovely! Please consider me an avid new reader of your fab blogs. As I get hooked on each one I will be adding them to my Good Reads section for sure.
Ok, now I'm going to spend the day playing in my pajamas with Benjamin. Apparently we're going to spend a lot of time crawling into spaces we can't get out of and throwing megablocks at the cat. Sounds like a good plan to me.