154: Darren Rowse On How To Become A Professional Blogger Today

Darren Rowse On How To Become A Professional Blogger Today

Today I have someone really special on the show. He’s actually someone who I’ve looked up to for a very long time and someone who I never thought I would have access to especially since he lives in Australia. And he’s actually one of the reasons why I got started blogging in the first place back in 2009.

His blog ProBlogger.net started a revolution of professional bloggers all over the world. He’s got close to 8000 posts and he’s influenced millions of people worldwide. If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s none other than Darren Rowse.

Today Darren runs ProBlogger.net, Digital Photography School, a podcast, an event and has written a bunch of books as well. Enjoy the interview!

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What You’ll Learn

  • What web properties Darren focuses on today and how they have evolved over the years.
  • Darren’s biggest money maker today
  • Darren’s traffic levels
  • How to make money with a blog and how it has changed.
  • How to start a successful blog today

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Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou and today I’m thrilled to have the father – no the grandfather of professional blogging on the show with me today, Darren Rowse, and he is going to teach us how to create a profitable blog in this day and age.

But before we begin I want to give a shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with all my email marketing providers.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce stores. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you want to offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to get them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing on our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and try it for free, and if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m also blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Well Klaviyo once again is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought and that makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, that’s easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, and that’s a piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I have someone really special on the show, he is actually someone who I’ve looked up to for a very long time, and someone who I never thought that I would have access to especially since he lives in Australia, and he’s actually one of the reasons why I got started blogging in the first place back in 2009.
His blog ploblogger.net started a revolution of professional bloggers all over the world, he’s got close to 8,000 posts on that blog and he’s influenced millions of people worldwide, and if you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s none other than Darren Rowse.

Today Darren runs ProBlogger, Digital Photography School, a podcast, an event and he’s written a bunch of books as well, and admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve “graduated” from ProBlogger, so I’m really eager to catch up, and with that welcome to the show Darren, how is the going today man?

Darren: Very well, that was a great introduction, I might borrow that, you just summed up that beautifully, so often I had to know how to introduce myself.

Steve: For some of the other guests I usually have them give a brief intro about themselves, but I in your case I’m actually more interested in what you’ve been up to in the last several years, so what web properties are you focusing on today and how have they evolved over the years.

Darren: So my mind to businesses are the ones you mentioned, Digital Photography School which is about ten times bigger than ProBlogger, we do around four million visitors a month to that and that’s a site on how to take better photos with that camera in your pocket or a rare generic. I started that in 2006 really as a site for me to answer my friend’s questions, I used to get a lot of friends who had this new [inaudible 00:05:23] and I would just point and shoot photographers and they wanted to learn how to use them and I was a guy who was a little bit more advanced than them, more of an enthusiast.

So I just started running two or three articles a week on by six like how to hold a camera, what’s [inaudible 00:05:38] really quite basic things. So I didn’t realize that it would be bigger than ProBlogger. At the time I had been blogging on ProBlogger for three years and that was a blog about blogging which I thought would always be too nichy, but it turns that really 2004 was a great time to start blogging on that topic, because there was a grounds for people who had been blogging for a while but didn’t know how to sustain it.

So I really focused on helping people to learn how to make money from their blog, so that’s started 2004. Digital Photography School was 2006 and yeah they’ve grown into businesses of their own and I am in the fortunate position to be able to I could really focus on either one of them and make a living out of each one.

Steve: You know what’s funny I noticed that the events and your podcast, they are all kind of focused on ProBlogger, right? Do you have the equivalent properties for DPS?

Darren: We don’t do a podcast with DPS, we’ve talked about that a lot over the years, but being a visual kind of medium we always come up against how would we in an audio kind of way talk about visual concepts. And I think we can do it but we probably to do it well we need to do a video podcast or a YouTube channel probably would make more sense.
But it’s a tricky one because a lot of what we’re talking about is landscape photography or travel photography and to do videos of those subjects you really need a film crew almost to go out and to do them well. Yeah so we’ve not really progressed to that stage.

Steve: It sounds like a big money also too right, it sounds expensive?

Darren: It does, it sounds expensive, and I’m a bit of a shoe string kind of guy, so a little bit tight.

Steve: So incidentally I just always been curious, so is DPS a bigger money maker than ProBlogger today?

Darren: Yeah for sure. In some ways ProBlogger is my labor of love, it is more of a passion project than anything else and I probably should be spending more time monetizing it, but I just love helping bloggers. So in many ways if it breaks even and makes a little bit of a profit so I can pay my team, I’m happy with that. Digital Photography School is certainly more of a strategic play and where I spend more of my time and my team spends a lot more time.

Steve: I was just going to ask you that next question, so when you allocate your time, is it like 60/40 or is it majority on your money making properties like the biggest one?

Darren: Yeah it changes from month to month. I’ve probably this year have put more time into ProBlogger particularly since I’ve started the podcast, that has taken more of my time and it’s something I’m really enjoying. So I started that in July 2015, 1st of July. So since then ProBlogger has taken more of my time and since our event has grown to the size it has, that’s taken more of my time as well. So I’d say it’s probably 50/50 over the year but it depends on what’s happening, what we’re launching, what we’re working on at any given moment.

Steve: And just for the sake of comparison, like what are the traffic levels like and how they differ between the two properties?

Darren: I need to dig in to the exact sets, but DPS on a good month we do around four million visitors, sometimes a little less. ProBlogger last time I looked I think I remember was about 10% of DPS or maybe a little bit more.

Steve: No way okay.

Darren: Yeah and ProBlogger is what people know me for because it’s a passionately branded site, but DPS you would struggle to find my name in a recent post there, I just don’t write content or hide behind it, and it’s become more of a brand in and of itself. That’s been a strategic move as well, one day I might sell it. I’d love to sell it I guess one day, so I didn’t really want to tie my name up in this at all.

Steve: Right whereas ProBlogger would be a harder site to sell probably?

Darren: Tricky yeah definitely.

Steve: And in terms of income at least I remember back in the old days it was a lot of Adsense and affiliate revenue. Has your revenue sources evolved over time as well?

Darren: Oh yeah, big changes there. So we started out, the first money I made online was Adsense and also my first personal blog way back in the day, and then I experimented a little with Amazon’s affiliate program, that was the two main things, and it was originally a few cents a day in the early days. Half of the day my wife clicked through the ads and I quickly told her not to do that anymore because I would have gotten kicked out of Adsense.

That was the [inaudible 00:10:15] and Adsense certainly become the thing that I made my first full time living from, and then I experimented with some ad networks and it works and a bit of other affiliate. Then back in – I think it was about 2009 I had been experimenting with recommending other people’s eBooks and courses, and I saw that my readers were responding really well to information products, and both my sites being information sites we teach on both of them and they worked quite well, I just didn’t sell products that teach as well.

So 2009 I created an eBook for both sites. On ProBlogger was 31 days to build a better blog which was really just a repurposed series of content that I had done on the blog, and then on Digital Photography School was a portrait photography eBook which again was repurposed content. It was a collection of the best articles I had written on the topic of portrait. And I was really nervous on both fronts, would anyone buy something that’s repurposed that they could get for free, but in both cases I think the photography one made $72,000 in 11 days and that just blew my mind.

Steve: That is crazy.

Darren: That was crazy, and the ProBlogger one did similarly, and so that opened my eyes to this idea of having more products and I think since then we’ve published about 40 eBooks. Not all of them have done that well, some of them have done a lot better than those early ones. We’ve done three courses on Digital Photography School and we’ve also this year started to create some library of our presets, so a library being like Photoshop and you can plug in some plug-ins almost like Instagram filters into the library, and so we’ve been selling those, so it’s almost like a software to our product as well.

Steve: How much do you charge for a course versus an eBook?

Darren: Our eBooks typically range from $20 to $30 depending on the length, we tend to publish quite hefty eBooks, and they are very produced, so we put a lot of time and energy into the design of them. So I know there is a lot of eBooks around for $5 or $3, that type of thing, this is certainly not that type of product. They are all PDFs, we don’t do Kindle, we do not any Amazon store, that is all sold directly through our site. Our courses have I think they are about $50 typically.

Steve: Okay so not expensive?

Darren: They are not super expensive, you’re certainly not paying $300, $400, and a lot of presets are $50 to $60, $70 in that range as well.

Steve: I’m just curious what your rationale is for not putting something on Amazon as well?

Darren: We did one and it was really hard because we had priced it at $20, and every other eBook on Amazon in the Kindle store was $3 in our category, and whereas we thought it was a great product and was much better than those, it just didn’t look right in that category and we’ve always had such success with PDF and we’ve got such a large audience, we really are able to drive a lot of traffic to our own products.

Steve: That’s true, you don’t really need Amazon.

Darren: Well I mean I wouldn’t mind doubling sales but we’ve just not quite found the right model for that. We do have three other smaller eBooks that we have developed under a different brand, we’ve attempted to put those on to Amazon because they are mini eBooks and they’re probably more the $6, $7 range, so that might be something we could experiment with.

Steve: So you have a whole bunch of different projects going on, and I’m just trying to get an idea what is like the one thing that you’re working on right now that you enjoy the most of all the projects that you have.

Darren: Definitely the podcast. My first love in communication was public speaking way back in the day like 2000, that’s while I was working in a church and with young people and so I was speaking every weekend and loved the preparation, loved the idea of taking people on a journey over 45 minutes and not being interrupted and really being able to teach.

So the podcast is very similar to that in many ways and it’s helped me to fall back in love with that speaking, verbal communication. I was going to say I love the feedback as well, I feel like it’s connecting with my audience in ways I’ve never ever, ever seen through a blog, the personal nature of it and just the sense that people would talk to me like we’ve shared time together, not that they’ve read my stuff. They’ve actually sat in their car with their kids listening to me, and I’ve shared an experience of listening to something I’m doing and I really enjoy that.

Steve: I just remembered you characterizing yourself as an introvert; I think I remember some posts like that, but yet you’re doing all this public speaking and the podcasts.

Darren: Yeah one of my [inaudible 00:15:04] you made, I’m much more comfortable on a stage in front of – I think a large one I did was 4500 at World Domination Summit, I loved that. I felt so alive, but I’m much more uncomfortable talking one on one because I don’t know what the person is going to ask and I’m a bit of a slow paced person as well.
So to have prepared a talk is fine because I know what I’m going to say, but to be in this environment just you and me talking now, that’s much more — puts me out of my comfort zone which is a good place for me to be, but it’s not somewhere where I tend to live much of my time to be honest. The podcast I’ve developed is much more about me talking, I’ve interviewed four people in 165 episodes, so it’s all me teaching.

Steve: Wow okay. I remember you were wearing a superman costume, perhaps that’s what gave you the confidence.

Darren: Yes, that was how I finished that World Domination Summit talk which yeah was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had.

Steve: So one thing I did want to talk to you about is that blogging has kind of changed dramatically in like the last five years I would say. Today everyone’s got a blog, content marketing is pretty much a give and play business, so I want to know if you were to start from complete scratch today, how you would proceed and how would it be different from than your story?

Darren: Blogs have changed so much, I think one of the main ways that I’m seeing that they have changed is that they used to be purely written content and now they tend to be more of a home for all your stuff, and so we’re seeing my blog now has a podcast on it and the blog has a video and it’s the home of different total stuff in it. I guess that’s really how I would change, I probably would start with a mix of written and audio instead of just written.

It really comes down to your personality and your experience and style and I guess the topic that you’re talking about as well and what it lends itself to as we said before DPS, the photography is based and really lend itself to audio. So some mix of your style, your audience and what they want and the topic as well. So yeah I would be much more multimedia, I think I would be using live video a lot more. That’s I think where it’s a bit of…

Steve: Are we talking like Facebook live or?

Darren: Yes Facebook live, if I had more time that’s where I’ll be sinking my time at the moment. I think there’s an incredible opportunity in that live interactive space and that’s probably for me the other place that I’ve seen my audience ride up and get very interactive with me and much more personal maybe when I’m sitting in front of a camera just doing Q&A like doing an “ask me anything,” and my audience do really well with that.

It works really well for me because I’ve got an audience already though, so if I was just starting out it might be more tricky although I think on a platform like Periscope there is perhaps opportunity there to be seen in front of new audiences, whereas on Facebook live you’ve got to have had that audience already liking your page.

Steve: Yeah you know I want to get your perspective, do you think like a purely written blog still has a chance to succeed today?

Darren: Definitely if that’s your way you’re most comfortable, that’s where you’re at your best, I think there’s people who that’s all they want, and I say on ProBlogger actually the audience who listen to the podcast are very different to the audience who’re listening to the blog.

There’s certainly some overlap there but I get emails from my blog readers every week saying, stop doing the podcast, I don’t listen to podcasts, and then I get people on the podcast going, stop linking to blog posts because I don’t read, I only listen. So I think there’s certainly an audience demanding just one or the other.

Steve: In terms of people in your class where you teach people how to blog, has your strategy evolved in terms of telling them what to write about even, because back in the day it wasn’t as saturated, but today there’s like tons of every type of blog imaginable?

Darren: Yeah there certainly been a big change from when I started in 2002 blogs were very personal multi topic, and they’ve certainly become much more niche. I’m not someone who says you have to have a niche; I think there’s plenty of examples of people who have written more for a demographic than a niche and talking about multiple topics, but you do really have to work hard at differentiating yourself from others because it’s so saturated at the moment and that way if you can bring a different spin on a niche or look at a niche or a topic through a different lens, then I think that one might stand out.

So if someone like you Steve came with a nerd fitness I think is a brand example, he’s talking about something that there must be tens of thousands of blogs on fitness, but he’s looking at it through the lens of a nerd and in doing so he’s running for a different audience who’ve been ignored in the past. As nerds we want to get fit but no one is speaking our language, so if you can find a way to hit a demographic that’s been ignored I think that’s one way into a saturated niche.

Steve: I notice you said we and I didn’t tell you that I was a nerd but I guess you just assumed.

Darren: I’ll send you a picture, we met, didn’t we meet?

Steve: That’s true we did meet, we did meet very briefly. So along those lines, so let’s say you picked a topic, what would be your strategy just to gain some early traffic to your site when you’re a nobody?

Darren: Yeah really it’s such a frustrating period even though it’s been 14 years almost to the day, I think it’s next week it’s my 14 year anniversary, I still remember that feeling of no one is reading my blog, is there anyone who knows it exists? So I think for me in the early days what I did was comment on other blogs and I started to network and do relationships with other influencers and I had no idea what I was doing, it was purely instinctive but I think today that’s certainly a place that I would be investing on.

The people I see breaking through into niches are usually either just brilliant and there’s not many of us who are brilliant, I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as brilliant in terms of my writing or production or anything like that, so that’s not a way I do it. But for me the way I broke into niches was to get to know people and then niching to become a prolific commenter, to email other bloggers, to suggest things that they could write about, to ask them questions, to really get on their radar on that way.

I think there‘s still is – there is a lot of noise in the space and so it’s hard to get on the radar of the really big bloggers or influencers, but there’s certainly lots of other people who aren’t quite as big who will be able to chatting with you. Guest posting I think still there is opportunity there to create guest content for other blogs or even to be interviewed on other podcasts, those types of things as well. It certainly takes some time to build those relationships, to open up those opportunities, but I think there’s certainly opportunity there to grow your profile through other influencers.

Steve: I do want to tell a quick story, there is this one guy, he tweets every single post that I put out like within a couple of hours after it goes out, and at first I didn’t notice but after like maybe six months of this happening I noticed, and so yeah I don’t know if that’s like something that you could do too that’s worth that many.

Darren: Yeah and look I’ve seen people who’ve become writers on my site who started just leaving really useful comments on our Facebook page and I noticed that. And then I gave them an opportunity to do something bigger and then that gave them a platform within my community and a bigger market if you like to grow their profile. So still being useful in those sorts of involvements can help.
But having said that you really also need to simultaneously be working on what you’re doing on your own blog and to have something really worthwhile being found there, and so there is attention anyone would be putting a lot of great content, adding to other people’s places with guest content and building those relationships, but you’ve simultaneously got to build the brand so as when people do start to trickle over to it that they are impressed and then they begin to share the word for you. So it’s not just do this and it will come, they’ve got to do lots of stuff.

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What would your split be in terms of time, like I know [inaudible 00:24:59] always talks about 80/20, like 20% creation, 80% promotion, how do you split your time or how would you split your time I should say?

Darren: I probably aren’t quite at that level of 80/20, particularly in the early days I think you’ve got to build up your archive of good quality content, so I’d be investing quite a bit into that. The other thing I’d say about creating content, you probably want to be trying to create two types of content.

Firstly you want to create that evergreen cornerstone content that you want to be known for on your site, so you really want to think carefully about that foundational content and get as much of that in place as you can, but then also weave into your publishing sharable content. Usually there are two types of content, usually that cornerstone foundational content is not as sharable and so on Digital Photography School for example I wrote maybe 200 articles over the first couple of years, and it was more the evergreen content, what’s [inaudible 00:25:56], what’s avatar, how to hold the camera.

It wasn’t really sexy content, no one was really going to share that content stuff, but then I started to also weave in things like ten mistakes landscape photographers make. It’s still teaching, it’s still useful but it’s a little more intrigue in there, I guess in some ways some people might say it’s a bit more click buddy, but it’s a top content that people will share.

You don’t want to just do that because then you end up with a sort of fluffy [inaudible 00:26:26] sort of site, sort of sweet and sickly, it’s just a lot. You want the deeper stuff as well but you do weave that in and then that helps you to grow when you start having people come into your site. That’s the kind of content that others will share for you on social media. So I’d be focusing on those two types of content and then spend the other half of my time building relationships, trying to write content for other people’s sites.

Steve: One thing I forgot to ask you was what are your primary traffic sources for both properties that you have right now?

Darren: Google is definitely number one on both sites.

Steve: Okay so search okay.

Darren: Definitely yeah and Facebook would be our biggest social driver of traffic and certainly has become trickier to get that traffic organically, and then email would be number three, and that’s the other part of building your audience. You really want to find a way to hook them in that isn’t just getting them on to your Facebook page because Facebook won’t show them your stuff all the time.

So I grab their email addresses is certainly the big – that’s really why I’m so happy I spent time doing in 2006 is building my list.

Steve: Let me ask you this question, so when you’re writing your posts, are you writing for people to actually share on Facebook, or do you write more for SEO like to get ranked in search?

Darren: Both and sometimes it’s that distinction between those two types of content that I was mentioning before, I’m certainly paying – in the early days I paid a lot of attention to what I felt people would be searching for, but I guess ultimately for me I’m trying to write content that is going to help people to become better photographers, and ultimately that’s the first thing I’m thinking about.

I want to create a blog that changes people’s lives because I know if I do that they will come back, they’ll subscribe, and they will bring their friends. So ultimately that’s what I’m doing but I’m also really aware that certain types of content get shared more, and so I’m doing analysis on sites like BuzzSumo shows you what people are sharing on your site and everyone else’s, and that highlights the type of formula for content that you might want to weave in as well, yeah and so I’m doing both I guess.

Steve: I’m just wondering how deliberate you are when you are picking topics or titles for your posts like do you bust out like a keyword tool, or do you just write and try to make the title compelling from a click perspective?

Darren: I don’t use any keyword tools as such. I guess I’m probably doing partly based on what I know works after 14 years, and what I’ve seen work in the last six months. We like for example that title I gave you before, ten mistakes landscape photographers make, I know for a fact that anytime we use the word mistakes in an article on DPS that it goes ballistic. It may not work on every blog but it works for us, and so we weave that one in, not every day obviously but once a month we’ll do a mistakes top article and pick a different niche within our niche.
I know DIY posts do really well with their audience, so I’m weaving in those sorts of keywords and I guess it’s just based on experience. But ultimately my style of creating titles is more about telling people what’s in the post and which is probably better for SEO.

Steve: Okay and are those posts the ones that are ranking though like your mistakes posts?

Darren: My mistakes posts don’t tend to rank as high; it’s more the how to do this, or solving a problem search that people might do.

Steve: Okay so your pillar posts are the ones that tend to rank and then your more shareable posts are more catered to social platforms like Facebook, is that…?

Darren: That’s right yeah, because I got a little system that I share every post on our site twice a year, and so I know those posts that I title in a way that would be shared that will get a second life at another point down the track.

Steve: Is Pinterest a part of your traffic for the photography site?

Darren: You would think so but it’s never really worked for us, like nothing we have done has seemed to work on Pinterest. We certainly have days where we get a spike of traffic from Pinterest but it’s very little to do with anything we’ve done, it’s just the fact that someone has found that and shared it. Yeah so…

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Darren: We’ve had a Pinterest board where we put a lot of time and effort but it didn’t really seem to make any difference, we kind of let it look after itself these days.

Steve: Are you running any paid ads to any of your content?

Darren: Not any of our blog posts, if we’re launching a product we will do some paid ads to that. It’s an area that I don’t personally feel energized by, I don’t enjoy it, it works to a degree, but I’ve not had spectacular success with it either. So it’s not a massive part of my strategy but it’s something we have experimented with.

Steve: Okay, let’s talk about your podcast since you mentioned that that was something that really excites, like how does your podcast content tie in to the overall blog?

Darren: A lot of the content on the podcast is really just updated blog posts; so things that I’ve written over the years that needed an update I’ve given them a verbal update, that’s been part of it. I did an exercise right at the start of the podcast where I mapped out 100 episodes, and that exercise was based upon the overall change I was trying to bring to my audience.

So I’m a big believer in creating an avatar for your audience of who your audience is which a lot of bloggers do and I think it’s smart but I also created almost like an after avatar, so there is a before and an after of who I want my audience to become. So I’ve got this picture in mind of who I want my readers to be.

And so on ProBlogger the full time blogger spends the after avatar, and so I mapped out, what does someone need to know to get from A to B, to get from their before shot to after shot and then I mapped out 100 things that I thought they needed to know and that became a big part of my first 100 or so episodes on the blog.

So it’s partly a combination of looking at what’s worked on the blog already but also sort of going through that process, and then I do a lot of Q&A podcasts as well. So I recorded a podcast this morning and that was purely based on a question someone asked me on Facebook yesterday.

Steve: I’m just curious, how do you measure the impact of your podcast on your traffic?

Darren: I’m watching Google analytics to see how many people are hitting the show notes, I’m watching my download numbers which are the actual number of people listening obviously, but it gives me an indication of whether a show is relatively successful or not. Then I guess I’m really looking for anecdotal kind of the emails that I get and the tweets that I get from people going wow that one really helped me with this.

Those types of things I think are really what I’m ultimately looking at, and from a conversional perspective I’m looking at how many people attended live this year based upon the podcast or how many people bought a book that we recommended in an episode.

Steve: Is your goal in general to get people on your email list ultimately?

Darren: Yeah for sure.

Steve: What are some things that you’re doing with email, and I imagine your list is probably pretty huge, several hundred thousand people at this point, how do you manage such a large list?

Darren: We use a number of tools, we’re largely on AWeber, we have used MailChimp from time to time as well, and we’ve used ConvertKit as well at times, so we are agnostic toward the tool but we have used them in different parts of the business. We’ve been doing a lot of testing this year with Welcomemat and I don’t know if you’re familiar with those…

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Darren: But being dropped down from the top and split testing those and they have doubled our subscriber numbers from when we just had a pop up, and when we had the pop up that ten times to our subscriber numbers. So Welcomemat have worked really well, I’m a bit concerned with Google’s announcement that they’re going to penalize people using them on mobile, so we’re also testing at the moment exit pop ups and they’re probably our second highest performers, so we’ll probably replace the Welcomemat January I think it takes over.

So we do a lot of testing around different types. On ProBlogger we found that the most plain Welcomemat works best, no pitches, no video, they’re just like plain. On Digital Photography School they love images being photography, and particularly they love images of people taking photos, so photographers pointing their camera to viewers.

So we do a lot of testing around that, we’ve used some different opt-ins this year, we created a series of opt-ins for ProBlogger, so you would sign up to get six emails, so it’s almost like a mini course and that worked quite well at keeping people on our list. One of the things I didn’t like about opt-ins in previous tries that I’ve used them is that people would subscribe and then unsubscribe once they got the free thing.

And so we created this one where you get six months worth of blog post ideas and that kept people on our list a lot longer, but it got tricky to deliver them all. We found all our providers went — people weren’t getting all the six emails on…

Steve: So what do you do to improve deliverability?

Darren: Well in the end we made that into a single download because we got sick and tired of – the six emails we would get from people. One of the things we did do last year was killed off a large part of our list that wasn’t responsive, and that it seems to help with getting our emails through spam filters a little bit more, I guess we’ve made our list a bit more healthy. So we killed off 200,000 subscribers.

Steve: Oh my goodness, really wow.

Darren: We hit a mean subscribers on Digital Photography School and so we realized a large percentage of them just weren’t opening their emails, and so we gave them a couple of last chances to engage with us and then we killed them off.

Steve: You mentioned three services, ConvertKit, AWeber, MailChimp, do you split your entire list across three services?

Darren: No we typically use MailChimp more for our event type lists, but AWeber is where we keep most of our lists. MailChimp we were doing more for specific campaigns that we might be running just for ease of use to separate them out. So they are quite different parts of the business.

Steve: Okay, I’m just curious like why you would use MailChimp for an event versus just like another list on AWeber?

Darren: I think from memory it was because one worked better with our event sales system.

Steve: Okay that makes sense.

Darren: And so once it was set up on a wink we just kept it there.

Steve: Okay and one thing I did want to touch on also is monetization, so like if you had a new blog, and let’s say you’re starting to develop a following, what would you start with in terms of revenue sources, like what is your main goal in monetizing a blog, like the holy grail so to speak?

Darren: So a starting place for me these days I would start with affiliate. I would go into a niche and thinking ultimately what do I want to do, and ultimately for me my goal would be to create a product, and that’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not going to convert at a high rate till you got some traffic, so I would be looking to find affiliate products that were similar to the product I wanted to create, and I would be testing a lot of those.

In doing so you’re creating a revenue stream but you’re also learning a lot and you begin to see what your audience will respond to in terms of do they like eBooks or do they like courses, I’d be promoting both. Do they like $10 products or do they like $30 products or do they like $200 products. So the more you promote different affiliate products the more you learn about what kind of product that you should be creating, and you’re also earning some income in the mean time.

So that’s probably the strategy I would go to. It probably depends a little on the niche, some niches led themselves to working with brands or doing sponsorships, but I’m moving more and more away from working with brands and advertising.

Steve: Let’s talk about DPS and ProBlogger, like how are the monetization strategies different across both sites?

Darren: Sure, so DPS we do, do advertizing, we have Adsense running on it still to this day. I know a lot of bloggers moved away from it but it still works really well for us, I don’t know why that is, so we run that. And then if we can sell advertising directly to an advertiser at a higher rate than what we can do with Adsense we swop in those ads as well.

Steve: Would you mind sharing the CPMs?

Darren: Oh gosh, I’ll open it up while we’re chatting.

Steve: Okay sure.

Darren: So we do run those top things – here we go, on page PM we’re running $1.25 so it’s not high for Adsense, but we’re doing four million page visitors.

Steve: Yeah that’s true.

Darren: So it kind adds up and if there is nothing else in those spots it kinds of adds up to $20,000, $30,000 a month which I’m not going to say no to. So yeah we do a combination of different advertising and affiliate and then products, and so depending on the month affiliates can actually be more than our products. If we’re launching product usually that then that means our product sales are higher than the affiliate, but yeah data mining comes through [inaudible 00:40:34].

On ProBlogger it is more our products, our event, we have a job board on ProBlogger and that’s been bringing for us, that’s very passive income, I don’t really do any work on it at all, no one does, it just looks after itself. We don’t do any advertising really on ProBlogger at all, I think we did one campaign with an advertiser on the podcast but it’s largely our own products, and occasionally we do an affiliate push as well.

Steve: And I’m just curious did you test like removing the ads versus keeping them on and still having the affiliate offers?

Darren: Yeah we’ve done all that testing, and on DPS obviously the Adsense is just – it doesn’t really make any difference if it’s there in events, if it’s not there it doesn’t and nothing else really earns anymore, so it’s good to get going.

Steve: For DPS do you do a lot of Amazon affiliate revenue?

Darren: Yeah we do probably around $7,000 or $8,000 a month in Amazon and that’s largely through recommending cameras and lenses, those types of things. Probably the best thing I’ve ever done with Amazon in terms of a tip is to create best seller lists. So we look at our reports every quarter and then we basically compile a best seller list based upon what sold in the last quarter and then we report that to our audience.

So those convert like crazy for us and people love to make their purchasing decisions based upon what other people have already bought, so that was clever.

Steve: So in terms of DPS would you say that affiliate revenue generates the bulk of the revenue as opposed to your own products?

Darren: Most months it probably generates the bulk of the profit but not the revenue, and the reason I say that is that our eBooks and courses generate more revenue but we’re splitting that revenue with the creators of those products. So we do revenue share type arrangements with authors of our eBooks and creators of our courses, so profit wise they don’t tend to be as profitable as an affiliate push.

We also do a big 12 days of Christmas campaign; we’re kind of gearing up for that at the moment where we do 12 deals in 12 days and these are a combination of our own products. So we might do 50% off our courses, 50% off our eBooks, and then we also tier up affiliate deals as well. So over the 12 days we send out 12 emails to our full list and say here is the deal of the day, they’ve got 24 hours to work on that. That’s our biggest two weeks of the year, it’s huge.

Steve: Okay, are these your own products or other people’s products as well?

Darren: A combination.

Steve: A combination okay.

Darren: Yeah every second day really, and then all the deals usually come back on the last day as well, so people get their last chance.

Steve: For ProBlogger they are just all blogging related products or internet marketing products?

Darren: Yeah some of them, we do, do information products but we also recommend server polatis [ph], WordPress themes, some more tools type stuff and then more generally businessy type stuff as well. So yeah in the past we have recommended Michael Hyatt’s courses which aren’t really blogging specific but they’re more entrepreneurial, yeah.

Steve: So going back to getting started again, so if you had a brand new blog so what traffic source would you personally focus on more today?

Darren: I’d be optimizing from Google, I think a lot of bloggers have been completely seduced by social media and have ignored SEO, basic SEO principles, and I think in doing so they’re really ignoring a massive source of traffic. So you’ve got to learn the basics of SEO and set your blog up well using the right kind of plug-in like Yoast WordPress plug-in, get set up in the right way, learn the basics, and then write content that will be searched for.

So that’s kind of like a thing that you just need to get right, and then I would be working on identifying who I’m trying to reach and where they’re hanging out. So are they on social media, if so which social network and then building a presence in those types of places, so it might lead you to Instagram or Pinterest or one of the other social networks.

Then I’d also be doing the same exercise with what other blogs are they reading, what podcasts are they listening to, what events are they going to, and I’d be targeting those places as well to build a presence and get to know those influencers in those places. So that would be the three areas…

Steve: It sounds like a lot of your strategies kind of leans on social aspects meaning like getting to know other bloggers and that sort of thing?

Darren: Yeah I’m a fairly relational kind of person, so I think that’s probably where my strength lie and I tend to go that way.

Steve: I did want to ask this as well, like I just had my first event last May, and I was just curious what your motivation was for having your own events?

Darren: Yeah so my first one I don’t really know that I had a motivation; I just thought it was a fun idea and people just loved it so much. And I think from then on I realized that it was probably one of the best ways to have a big impact on readers, because I saw people from first year, second year go full time with their blogs from nowhere, and I was like it was purely by something they learnt or someone they met.

I was like this has a potential to change people’s lives in a really big way and so that hooked me, that alone. There are so many other benefits, they potentially can be quite profitable, we’ve not really driven hard on the profit front because I’m really just passionate about bloggers particularly starting bloggers, and so we’ve kind of kept that cost down to make it as affordable and accessible as we can, but you could make quite a good profit and I’ve got some friends who make great money from events.

The other part for me is that it really energizes me for the rest of the year in my blogging because I’ve got all these conversations in my mind with people I’ve met at the events asking me questions that then inform the content that I’m going to create over the next year. So it really impacts the content for the next year and products as well that I can create, because I’ve started to see you have all these conversations in two days and end up talking to a couple of 100 people and out of that you see themes that you wouldn’t see just blogging away, and so ideas have come out of the event for other products in the last few years particularly.

Steve: By the way this is very non introverted behavior I’m getting from you Darren.

Darren: I suck myself up, and then I go home and I’ll sit in my room in the fetal position for a few days after an event.

Steve: Hey we’ve been chatting for quite a while and I want to be respectful of your time. If anyone wants to get a hold of you today I don’t know if that’s changed, before it used to be Twitter I think, right? But what’s the best way to get a hold of you and what things are you trying to promote right now?

Darren: Yeah so if you want to find out all things ProBlogger, we’ve actually bought and set up problogger.com now, so we’re still on .net with the blog but everything else is living on .com at the moment. So if you go to problogger.com you’ll see all the probloggerish things, we’re ProBlogger on Facebook and Twitter as well.
And then Digital photography School, if you just Google that it’s so much easier than me telling you the URL because it’s got hyphens, so that’s there. And then yeah I guess just search for us on iTunes for the podcast, I’ve just transitioned from twice a week to once a week shows now, and as I said before they’re all teaching, largely me just going through a topic for the week, 20 to 45 minutes of good solid teaching.

Steve: When is your next event?

Darren: We are still trying to work that up, but we typically hold them between August and October in Australia.

Steve: Okay cool. Oh hey Darren thanks a lot for coming on the show, I had a blast, and it was a pleasure to finally have a conversation with you.

Darren: Likewise.

Steve: All right take care.

Darren: Thank you.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. When I first started blogging I never would have dreamed of having access to a guy like Darren, and he’s a great guy and totally down to earth. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode154.

Once again I want to thank klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, and once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. If you want to give it a try it is free, so head on over to privy.com, that’s privy.com/steve, once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I actually talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

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