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This blog post is quite long so you probably shouldn’t read it. To the 50% of visitors who are still with me, I’ll say now that less than 1% of you will get to the end so you may as well leave now. The value here is in reading the whole post; not in skimming. Now that we’re left with just a few people, let me say first say “Hey” and secondly say “This blog post will go against 99% of the things you’ve ever read about blogging.”
I’m going to be controversial and I might even upset a few people. I’m not being controversial for the sake of controversy and I’ve been told I’m actually quite a nice guy. I’m simply telling the truth, and giving you the real state of the blogosphere for no other reason than it’s about time something like this was said.
Brian Clark (a big inspiration of mine) is the owner of one of the biggest blogs in the world, Copyblogger. His site made over $3.5m in 2009 and it will probably make more in 2010. He made that money by teaching you how to make more money through courses like Teaching Sells and through selling WordPress themes like Thesis.
He’ll even throw the odd affiliate link into his tweets. I really like Brian and he deserves his success, but he makes money by teaching you how to make money. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing; I just want you to be aware of it.
Steve Pavlina is the biggest personal development blogger in the world. He writes some of the best articles I’ve ever read on topics like productivity and motivation, but he also makes money by teaching you how to make money. He promotes journaling software and other products, but he admits his biggest earner is promoting products he didn’t create. One such product, Site Build It, helps you build websites that make money. Steve has linked to the product on multiple posts and has even written a 2,000+ word review.
Steve makes over $100,000 per month from his blog, so I’ll let you decide if promoting a product like that is worth his time.
Leo Babauta runs a very popular blog called Zen Habits. With over 160,000 subscribers he’s one of the biggest bloggers online and no praise he receives is without merit. With that audience he’s been able to promote eBooks like ‘Zen to Done’ and write a best-selling book on simplicity. I’m sure that each of these things made him a lot of money, but did they make as much as his $285 course on A-list Blogging?
I’m not exempt from any of this. I’ve made a lot of money myself through teaching.
There’s a popular saying that goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” These people can, and do, and they also teach. I have huge respect for each of them. The point I’m making is simply this: Teaching is a very, very profitable business, especially in the blogosphere. These guys did not create the waiting audience, but they do provide for it.
The web is full of bloggers who see that these people are making money so they try to teach you how to make money as well. Please don’t fall for it and lose 12 months of your life like I did or $5,000 like a good friend of mine (who may identify himself in the comments here) did.
It’s not just the topic of making money online where this has happened. You’ll see plenty of teen “life coaches”, social media experts who only use Twitter, and Forex experts who’ve never actually traded with real money. I’ll let you put your own quotations around the word experts.
A good rule to follow is to only take advice from people who are actually living what they teach. How much importance would you place on relationship advice from someone with three divorces under their belt?
I talk about being remarkable on this blog quite a lot. In all honesty though, I know that it doesn’t really matter. Not if you want to make money with blogs, anyways.
There’s a 26 year old in Hungary who makes over $100,000 per month from blogs you’ve never heard of. That’s probably because he has hundreds of them, and all of his content is automated. He has no real readers and he probably doesn’t handle any of the blogging process, but he sells text links on such a large scale that he’s now a millionaire.
In many ways, he’s a successful blogger.
There’s a popular blogging course I found recently which goes against every rule out there. Their philosophy is for you to pick a very small but profitable niche, and then write about every other blog post that’s being written on that subject. It might not make much sense (I had to go through the course myself to “get it”) but these guys are making millions of dollars by doing this.
The bloggers who are being written about then comment or blog about that feedback, and send more traffic to the new site. These sites look very much like affiliate landing pages (email opt-ins that eventually promote you a product through an affiliate link) and capture very targeted email addresses.
Many marketers will tell you that making money online is all about having a list. In the case above, this list can make you thousands, if not millions.
Quick Online Tips is not remarkable (at least not to me) but it does exactly what the name promises. It offers quick tips to help you get the most out of the internet. 999 posts out of 1,000 probably have absolutely no relevance to you. The author knows this but I doubt he cares – the traffic he receives from Google must be incredible.
Despite having over 20,000 apparent RSS readers, writing a guest post there will get you no more than 10 clicks on your site. Most subscribers simply don’t read the majority of their content.
Search traffic is targeted and if you display relevant contextual ads (just check out that second “navigation bar”) then you’re going to make a lot of money. I wouldn’t tell a friend about the site simply because most posts aren’t going to help them. Yet, the owner is making thousands of dollars per month by doing what he does.
Would I tell a friend about the automated blogs that are filled with unreadable content and link out to thousands of other sites? Would I want to keep reading a blog that simply writes about other blog posts day in and day out? No.
They’re unremarkable. But, in their case, it’s totally irrelevant. They’re successful.
Gretchen Rubin is remarkable. Her blog, the Happiness Project, helps people answer the question “How can I be happy?” She managed to launch a best-selling book with the same name and deserves every bit of praise she receives.
Ars Technica is remarkable. When thousands of other tech blogs were writing short posts made up of a few hundred words they changed the game by writing long, in-depth and detailed posts. The owners of the site are well rewarded for the efforts that they put in.
Being remarkable matters if you want to love what you do, not just the result of your actions. Although Steve Pavlina makes a large chunk of his cash by telling people how they can make a large chunk of cash, he’s still remarkable. I also have no doubt that he loves what he does — how else would he have written well over 500,000 words on the subject of personal development?
Despite making less than 5% of my income through this blog (some of you manage to find my eBook) I still spend more of my time on this site than any other that I own. The reasons are simple: I love writing, I love sharing ideas, and I love interacting with highly intelligent people (that’s you!). Writing on the subject of making money online and not making money while doing it is somewhat remarkable. I guess. ViperChill is growing because the content I write markets itself. People are talking.
The main reason being remarkable matters is because the blogosphere has changed dramatically.
You didn’t always need to be remarkable to build a successful, legitimate blog that makes money.
Now you do. Here’s why:
For a moment imagine that everyone in the world could only subscribe to 10 blogs on your chosen topic. Do you really deserve to be on their radar?
If not, then maybe it’s time to…
With ViperChill I have broken pretty much every blogging ‘rule’ that most bloggers will share with you. I didn’t set out to break the rules, but I didn’t set out to follow them. I just write when I want to write on topics I want to write about (try saying that 3 times quickly). If it takes a lot of words to say what I need to say, then so be it.
Here are a few rules I’ve broken, off the top of my head:
There are probably a lot more but I’m sure you get the point.
Playing it safe is riskier than taking risks.
Don’t believe me?
Yahoo! played it safe with their portal, and then Google came along with their simple search interface. MySpace played it safe and stopped innovating, and then Facebook stole the social network crown. Newspapers played it safe and now most of them are struggling to find leverage online.
Playing it safe is easy. But it’s also boring and predictable. Taking risks might (probably not) alienate your potential audience, but that’s fine. You will build an audience who loves whatever it is you’re doing differently.
Does that mean that the old rules don’t work? Of course not. Sharing value on a consistent basis is always going to be a solid strategy to use. Likewise, no matter how remarkable you are, people just aren’t going to stick around if you can’t be bothered to spell check your articles. These things matter, but they’re not enough on their own to get people talking about you.
People don’t talk about graphic designers who create logos similar to ones you’ve seen a hundred times before. They talk about people like Hugh McLeod, David Airey and Matthew Inman. If you haven’t realised by now, the blogosphere doesn’t need another Engadget, Problogger or Perez Hilton (who are each remarkable in their own unique way).
The blogosphere doesn’t need any more blogs that play it safe.
I was going to list some of the ways that you can break the rules in your own industry but then they might just become the new rules which would defy the point of this post entirely.
Instead, I’ll ask you a very important question, the answer to which is critical: What is nobody else in your industry willing to do / try?