It’s time for the feature segment.
The interesting thing about blogging is that you can be famous without needing to have an agent or any other kind of traditional media support. That’s the really amazing thing. You can see examples of how blogging is starting to equalize the playing field. Once upon a time, media was in control of information and that’s just simply no longer the case.
Everybody is a reporter, everyone can start up a blog, and everyone can start writing about whatever they want to write about. The fact of the matter is if you are popular as a blogger, you can actually make money doing it. A lot of people wonder about this. How can you do that?
We’ll talk about it. A lot of it will involved things that we’ve talked about before, ways to monetize traffic, because after all in internet marketing what we’re trying to do is get traffic however we can get it, however we choose to get it, make that traffic take some action that we want them to take, and have that action be monetizable.
In the case of blogging, we want to create great content on a blog that people care about, get them to read it, and in general take some action that is profitable for us. There are lots of actions that they could possibly take. They could make a donation to support the ongoing maintenance of your blog, they could see an ad that someone paid for, they could click on an affiliate link. We talked about affiliate marketing a couple episodes ago.
The bottom line is we want to get traffic, we want to convert that traffic into some kind of monetizable return. What better way to create traffic than to get a loyal base of readers that care about what you have to say and turn to you to keep up with things.
Of course, the most famous of all the bloggers probably is Perez Hilton, everybody knows about Perez. I don’t actually read that blog, but I know about it because I’m in internet marketing. The most famous blog that I know about that I actually read would be blogs like Yaro Starak, who runs a fantastic blogging course, or Problogger, or Copyblogger.
These blogs have enormous numbers of readers. You can look at them and see how they’re monetized. They’re monetized by advertisements, they’re monetized by affiliate sales, and if you look at the latter two blogs, Problogger and Copyblogger, and Yaro’s blog as well, they’re also monetized by the sale of their own products, by referring people into their own products.
I actually think this is the best use for a blog. When we get to talking about how to use a blog in your business in future episodes, we’re going to be talking about a blog as a way to identify prospects for your other products. We really won’t talk too much about a blog in and of itself.
But, if you’re a prolific writer and you love to write, there’s a topic that you’re very passionate about, it is certainly possible for you to create a blog, start an online business around that blog, get traffic, and monetize that traffic with current monetization methods that are out there available to you.
Before we start with too much information about how to build a blog, I guess we first ought to touch on what a blog is. That’s a question I get a lot of times from people who aren’t familiar with the internet, particularly people like my mom. I’ll talk about a blog and she’ll ask a question, “I’ve heard of these blogs. What are they exactly?”
You probably already know blog is short for web log, which implies this is sort of a journal, an online journal. I’d say the most interesting part of a blog, or the thing that makes a blog a blog is the fact that the content in the blog is organized primarily in chronological order.
Posts come in one at a time, articles are called posts in the blogging world. They come in one at a time and the newest one is always on top. They can be organized in other ways as well, you can usually search these blogs and a lot of times the posts are tagged so that common themes are put together. You can have categories for posts and so forth.
The primary thing that you’ll notice about most blogs is that when you arrive on the first page of a blog, what you’re going to see on the home page is what the author has written first. Now, there are lots of other formats for blogs. You can have magazine style blogs where multiple stories are on the home page.
You can go to MasonWorld.com, that’s an example of a blog that was designed by Garry Conn over at GarryConn.com. You can see my latest post right there on the blog. In fact, if you go to the blog immediately after the release of this podcast, you’ll see that the release of this podcast is the latest story on the front of the blog. That’s what makes a blog a blog.
The question is, if you want to blog, what do you need? First thing you need is you need to decide exactly what it is that you’re going to write about. I recommend personally that you write about something that you care about.
If you’re going to be a blogger and you’re going to make money blogging, and you’re not using this blog for niche marketing or some of the other things affiliate marketing that we’ve talked about, but you really want to become a well known author on a subject, you really need to think about whether it’s in your personality to blog about something day in and day out that you don’t care about.
I know I personally can’t do that. I’ve tried to do some blogging on topics that I don’t care about, and quite frankly I can’t get it done. That’s my first piece of advice to you.
My second piece of advice to you is to write about something that at least some people are going to care about. Maybe you care about one particular kind of koala bear that’s only found in some jungle in Southeast Asia, and you are some kind of biologist and you’re the world’s leading expert in that.
That might just be fine for you to write about that, but I’m going to tell you as cute as koala bears are, there’s just not going to be that many people that care about your koala bear blog. Especially if it’s specific to one variety of koala bear in Southeast Asia.
On the other hand, if what you really care about is the Dallas Cowboys or some other kind of broad topic like cars, racing, weight loss, how to have a happy life, how to fix relationships, how to manage debt, one of these topics that’s very important and big in the news, you have a real opportunity to get a lot of readers.
The flip side of that is some of those areas are very competitive and like choosing any niche in internet marketing you’re going to want to narrow that done. But, the fundamental thing is that you need to write about something that you care about and some number of other people are going to care about as well.
Then once you’ve decided that you’ve got a topic and you are going to have a blog that people are going to care about, you need to register a domain name. My recommendation on the registration of domain names for blogs, where blogging is your ideal target market, that’s really what you’re going after you’re trying to be a blogger is to register a name that people can remember.
You want a name that rolls off of people’s tongue, like Problogger, Copyblogger, or something that people can remember and just type in at the command line, because you want that word of mouth opportunity. Do you want search engine traffic? Absolutely. But, the domain name doesn’t weigh that heavily on the search engine traffic. I know we haven’t talked about search engines a lot, but we will in future episodes. For now, if you’re going to be a blogger, I definitely recommend that you register a catchy domain name to call your blog.
The next thing you’re going to need is some blogging software. Of course, there isn’t any option here that I would recommend over WordPress. There are two versions of WordPress. There’s WordPress.org and WordPress.com. There’s actually a third thing called WordPress MU, we’re not going to worry about that today. That’s multiuser version of WordPress.
WordPress.com is software that allows you to host a blog on the WordPress site itself. So, you might end up with something like redsocks.wordpress.com for your blog on red socks. WordPress.org is the same software, very similar software, that you host on your own domain. I’m strongly recommending that option.
You definitely want to host the blog on your own domain. You need to be in control of your own destiny. WordPress.com is going to limit some of the things that they’re going to allow you to do some of the kinds of advertising that you can have on your blog and so forth. So, you definitely want to focus on a WordPress.org installed on your own domain.
Now, if you need hosting currently I am recommend a special host that has a one penny first month and easy set up of WordPress. You can find that recommendation at MasonWorld.com/host. But, the bottom line is your website needs a place to live, that’s going to cost you a few dollars a month. I recommend that you check that host out at MasonWorld.com/host. That’s my latest and best current recommendation for where to host your website.
Once you’ve got your blog up and running really what you need to do is write. We can talk in some more detail at a later date about how to choose things to write about, how to pick posts that will capture your reader’s attention, how to write pillar content that you can rank for in the search engines that people will come back to and link to, and drive traffic to your site. But, the bottom line is you need to write and you need to write a lot.
You need to create a posting schedule, you need to write regularly. One of the things, just like with this podcast that your readers are going to want to see is the regular creation of content on a predictable schedule. So, you need to write early, write often, but most importantly you want to write on the same schedule all the time. Maybe for you that’s once a week, maybe it’s once a day. Whatever your schedule is you need to kind of fall into it and stick with it.
One thing that you’ll find is that a lot of people start a blog, they find out that it’s not for them, then they fade out and the blog just dies because they never spend time on it. So, really get committed to your schedule in the beginning and get your blog going.
Once you’ve got your blog up and going, you have several options for monetizing that blog. You’ve got what could be described as direct monetization options and indirect monetization options. Now, direct options are the kind of things that you might think of automatically, like advertising.
You can put contextual ads on your blog, like Adsense, where the words that you write on the page effect which ads actually show up. You can put on different kinds of blogging ads and textual ads. There are all kinds of ad systems, and a lot of these are covered in the Silver book. That chapter on blogging is actually written by Darren Rowse, he’s a very famous blogger with lots of good things to say about blogging. Definitely recommend you check out that section in the Silver book.
You can also get your blog sponsored. Let’s say that you have a BMW fan blog where you talk about BMWs and all the things that are great about them. Maybe BMW wants to sponsor your blog.
You can also make money on your blog just by having a donation button. Maybe you’re providing helpful information to people. There aren’t really products to sell, but you’re helping people with relationships, or helping them fix their computer, or whatever it might be. They’re so thrilled that they might want to leave you a buck or two, the sort of “buy me a beer” click button that you can have with Paypal or other service to leave a donation.
There’s other direct methods. You can have merchandise, like CafePress t-shirts. You can even sell subscriptions to premium content on your blog. If you’ve got a blog where you talk in general about most stuff, but then you’ve got a premium side to the blog where people can get even more content if they pay you a monthly fee, that can work as well.
Now, one thing that you can use your blog for is for indirect methods of monetization. Let’s say that you’re blogging, but really your goal is to drive traffic to your consulting business or to get other types of indirect monetization, like other writing gigs or photography gigs if you have a photography blog. That’s an indirect way you can monetize your blog.
That’s kind of interesting, because if you’re already doing something, like you have some sort of business, a real brick and mortar business and you want to enhance that business, you can start a blog in your area of expertise, become an expert, drive traffic to your business and also leverage the information and knowledge that you already have in your online business against your offline business and vice versa.
Nothing says that just because you’re an expert offline in a local market that you can’t become an expert online in a national market, or maybe even in a world market. In fact, the fact that you are already an expert offline can make you a very good blogger online.
That should give you an idea about blogging. If you’re interested in blogging, I recommend that you go to get some hosting. One place is MasonWorld.com/host. You can find out all about that and be up and running with a blog this afternoon. That takes care of bloggings, that’s our next method for making money on the internet. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the FTC.
Let’s talk about the FTC . So, the FTC on the 5th of October released some final guides governing endorsements and testimonials. You can find a link to this on FTC.gov. I’ll put the link in the show notes. Basically, the guidance is pretty short.
Before we talk about it, let me reiterate the disclaimer just so we’re really clear. I am just a regular person reading the output from the FTC. I am not an FTC expert, I am not an attorney, I do not play an attorney on TV. So, I am not qualified expert to advise you on what you need to do.
If you can’t deal with that, you need to turn off your iPod right now, because I’m not responsible for what impact my advice has on your business, you are. as long as you understand that, we’re cool. I’m going to tell what I think and what I’m going to do. You need to make your own decisions about what you’re going to do. Enough of the disclaimer.
Basically, this guideline really it only had about seven or eight paragraphs. I think eight paragraphs. The first paragraph really just deals with the fact that they indicate that they’re making an announcement. Now, what they’re announcing is guidance to advertisers. This isn’t law that they’ve put out, basically it’s the FTC’s guidance on how to deal with existing FTC regulations.
What they say in the second paragraph is that there are several changes incorporated into the guides for advertisers. Those guides were last updated in 1980. So, that’s a pretty striking thing right there. The amount of stuff that’s happened on the internet since 1980 is enormous, so it’s no surprise that it’s time to update some of this stuff.
Really they only cover three things that impact advertising in this announcement, and only two of them impact internet marketers, in my opinion. One thing that they’ve said is that any time there’s an endorsement by a consumer, an expert, an organization, or a celebrity that indicates that they’re a consumer of a product, any kind of endorsement, “I used this product and I got a result.”
We all use testimonials in our internet marketing products. Any time you use a testimonial that claims a result you are required to clearly state what the user can actually expect. So, let’s say I use a weight loss product and I give a testimonial that I lost 105 pounds. But, my results are not typical. It used to be good enough to say, “These results are not typical.” Your mileage may vary, that’s what the car people say.
Well, that’s no longer acceptable according to this FTC guidance. What must be done now is that you must state what the average user would expect. To me that means that very simply if 1,000 people take a weight loss pill, and one of them loses 80 pounds, but most of them don’t lose any weight, you’ve got to report the average of what those other people are doing.
In some cases it’s not even clear to me how you’re going to ever know that. How are you going to know the average results of what your customers are doing? But, that’s what the FTC is claiming.
Now the question is what is Mark Mason going to do? Well, I’ll give you a concrete example that I’m concerned about. I have a product called Niche Adsense Themes, it’s over at NicheAdsenseThemes.com. I am aware of the fact recently that someone using my themes, they’re themes for Adsense, someone using my themes was able to use those themes to generate some ridiculous amount of money per month. I think 1,000 dollars per month using article marketing and my themes in a mortgage site they were able to generate a site relatively quickly that made them something on the order of 1,000 dollars per month.
This is well documented over at Site Point. You can go look over at Site Point and find this thing. I was going to get that guy to offer me a testimonial that says, “Using your themes I was able to make 1,000 dollars a month.” Well, guess what folks? Those results aren’t typical. I’ve never had a customer come to me, besides this guy and say that they were able to make 1,000 dollars a month using my themes.
So, that’s not a typical result. For me to use that testimonial like I was planning to, I’m going to have to now say, “These results are not typical. The average user that uses my themes never makes any money at all.” Why? Because like with most internet products people don’t use them. They download them, throw them on their hard drive.
You might be able to say the average user who actually does what is recommended in the product and follows the program has a certain results. Quite frankly, I don’t know that result. So, my plan is to not mess with using testimonials that guarantee results or that talk about results at all. I will use testimonials like I have typically used where people talk about how they liked the product, they think it’s wonderful, but I won’t use any testimonials that talk about specific results.
That just opens me up to too much uncertainty. I don’t know other people’s results, I don’t have any way to verify, so I’m not going to use those. That’s my simple answer to that.
The second thing that’s covered in the FTC bulletin has to do with disclosing material relationships. That’s the next paragraph. Basically, what they say is something that should make sense to you. If you’re recommending a product to someone and you make money if they buy it, you need to tell people that, because if you have a financial incentive to recommend a product that can bias your recommendation and people deserve to know that.
Guess what folks? I know a lot of people aren’t doing this and I am not rigorous about doing it on my own blog, although I do have a very clear disclosure page. I’m not sure that’s enough in this case, but we need to be doing this. If I recommend to you, XYZ product, like I have even earlier in this podcast and you buy that product based on my recommendation I make money and you deserve to know that.
So, what am I going to do? Well, I’m going to do a couple of things. One thing that I’m going to do is make sure that every blog that I have that recommends a product has a disclosure page prominently displayed for the users to look at that says something along the lines of products recommended on this blog result in the generation of commissions. If you buy a recommended product, it’s likely that I’m going to get a commission.
You can see something like that on the MasonWorld.com blog, I have a disclosure page. I’ll also link to it in the notes. It’s not great. I plan to update it. it was my previous attempt of being transparent, and I plan to put that on all my blogs.
My personal opinion is that that’s not really going to be enough. Just having that disclosure page buried somewhere on your site is not going to be enough. We’re going to have to be more up front. I plan on actually adding something in my signature at the bottom of every post, or something that discloses the fact that I am using affiliate links when I recommend products.
I plan to be completely transparent. I’m going to take any chances on this one, because not only do I think that’s what the FTC is trying to get at, I also believe that they’re on the right track. I think it’s really important for some person who doesn’t really understand internet marketing, doesn’t understand the idea of affiliate links to know that when I recommend a product like FirePow, for example, which I’ve recommend many times, that I get a commission if you buy FirePow. That’s really what I think the right thing to do is.
The next paragraph in the FTC statement talks about celebrity endorsements. I don’t have that problem. Of course, I did have Lynn Terry on here a couple weeks ago, so she’s kind of a celebrity. But, seriously, I think celebrity endorsements are not a problem that most of us are going to face, but it’s covered in there as well.
That’s pretty much, from my perspective at least, all that’s covered in that announcement. You will see some gibberish at the bottom about how this is not actual law, about how this is the FTC’s guidelines on how to comply with existing law. There’s a burden for the FTC to prove that you’re breaking the law.
But, the bottom line is that thing really talks about three issues and those are celebrity endorsements, material connections between authors and the products that they recommend, and the first thing that we talked about, which was the fact that if you have testimonials you need to disclose average results.
Now, let me reiterate that I am not an attorney and I am not giving you advice here. I’ve just told you what I’m going to do. You need to do whatever you’re going to do.
Here’s another thing that I think is true. If you are trying to deceive people or you doing something that is going to cause people to be upset, if you misrepresent a product or you do something that causes people to be dissatisfied with the product that they bought, what are they going to do? Well, they are going to potentially file a complaint with the FTC.
What’s the FTC going to do? One thing that they can do is they’re going to look at your websites and see whether or not you’re in compliance. So, what’s the best way to keep the FTC out of your business? The best way to keep the FTC out of your business is not to do things on your websites that mislead or take advantage of your customers. Who are your customers? Even if you’re an affiliate marketer your customers are the people who come by your websites.
So, that’s the right way to think about this stuff. If you do things that respect the value of your readers or the people that are clicking around your blog you’re a lot less likely to have trouble with the FTC. That’s really the bottom line on this whole mess. You need to look out for the customers of the products that you’re recommending and endorsing.
That wraps it up for today. I am actually getting on a plane and heading out to Asia in a few hours. I’ll be going to Taiwan and to Korea on this trip. I’m glad to have this in the can and out on the website prior to take off on that long trip. I’ll be back in two weeks with another episode. Until then, I hope you have a fantastic day and a great week. Take care.
Thanks for listening to the Mason World Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast. For more information about this program, and to get the show notes, be sure to visit our website at MasonWorld.com/podcast. Follow @MasonWorld on Twitter.
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Thanks again for listening to the Mason World Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast, building internet businesses one night at a time. Have a great day.