Review: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

I picked up “ProBlogger” this week looking for some motivational reading to get me writing regularly again. I’ve been bogged down for the last couple of months with buying a house which has diverted a lot of time and energy I’d rather have spent  working on websites. The process has also left me feeling a lot poorer, so dangling the offer of a six-figure income in front of me was pretty effective.

I thought this book provided a good solid introduction to the issues surrounding monetizing blogs. It has plenty of tips which will be useful to any blogger – whether they’re interested in making money or not.  Despite the “six-figure income” bit of the title, the authors don’t push any get-rich-quick scams, but instead emphasise the time, hard work and discipline it takes to succeed. The personal blogging stories they provide in the introduction are particularly effective at getting this across – for example, this is Darren Rowse on his posting frequency:

“… there have been countless nights when I’ve worked into the wee hours of the morning blogging. Though I have better boundaries these days, it wasn’t unusual for me to post 50 times per day over 12 hours in front of the screen. “

This kind of makes me feel inadequate about my inability to manage one post a week…

The book starts with a chapter on “blogging for money” which looks broadly at different monetization methods for blogging and ways of measuring your blog’s success. This builds nicely into the second chapter on niche blogging, one of the core techniques for getting money out of blogs. The authors look at the benefits of finding the right niche and give detailed guidance on how to pick a profitable niche, considering:

  • Are you interested in the topic? Do you have experience or expertise in it?
  • Is the topic popular? Is the niche growing or shrinking?
  • What’s the competition, and what’s it neglecting?
  • Will you have enough content?
  • Is the niche able to be monetized?
  • How wide should a niche be?

Chapter 3 is about setting up a blog. Most of this is pitched at a basic level for people who haven’t tried blogging before – including a step-by-step guide to setting up a hosted blog at WordPress.com and a discussion of the benefits of hosted vs. self-hosted blogs. However, there are still some tips here which more experienced bloggers could gain from – especially in the discussion of factors to consider when choosing a domain name.

Chapter 4 is about blog writing. It’s probably the section of the book which will be most useful for all bloggers – not just those who are seeking to blog for profit. Topics covered include providing useful content, researching readership and writing tips for blogs. My favourite bit in this section is the list of 20 types of blog post – which should come in very handy if you ever get completely stuck for something to write.

The next couple of chapters are about actually making money, covering “blog income and earning strategies” and “buying and selling blogs”.  These provide wide-ranging coverage of issues surrounding advertising and other methods of earning income from blogging – including a short look at  indirect income earning strategies like freelance blogging, magazines and books, speaking, consulting and employment opportunities. The buying and selling section includes a discussion of flipping (buying blogs to sell them). There’s also coverage of how to value blogs and where and how to buy and sell them.

After a short section about blog networks, there’s a chapter on “blog promotion and marketing” which is definitely worth reading. It discusses building flagship content, commenting and linking generously, getting attention through link baiting, running competitions, using social media, SEO and tips for increasing page views on your blog.

The book is rounded off by a couple of short chapters covering “secrets of successful blogs” and “creating something worthwhile”.

Overall it’s a useful read – and it managed to motivate me at least enough to get me to write this post.

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett was published last year by Wiley.

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For people looking to start using WordPress for their blogging efforts, see my review of  WordPress.Com Essential Training.

Review: WordPress.com Essential Training

I’ve been a subscriber to the lynda.com online training site for almost a year. I really enjoy the video training courses on offer there and find them especially useful for learning applications. Following along in books can quickly become dull and I find explanations which actually show the use of the product to be very effective. When I joined lynda.com, content management systems were at the top of the list of topics which I wished the site had more coverage of. I’ve therefore been very pleased to see recent training titles appear on Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress. Hopefully I’ll get around to looking at all these courses in time, but for now I’ve been going through the WordPress.com course hosted by Maria Langer.

Maria is a great host for the training and is very clear and enthusiastic. She uses a couple of her own blogs as examples through the course, which lends a nice personal touch. She also gives plenty of advice which sounds authentically drawn from personal experience. The training could easily be used by people with very little technical knowledge and starts from first principles: “What is a blog?” is the title of an early video. However, all the video lessons are free-standing and more advanced users could just skip to the later videos for the features they are interested in. The full version of the training has exercise files which let you develop the exact elementary school blog example built in the videos. However, unlike with some lynda.com titles, the files aren’t really essential and you could follow along easily enough without them.

Among the sections which would probably be most useful for a WordPress newbie, there is a clear description of the difference between categories and tags which people starting out with the package can find confusing. The section on working with comments is also very useful and contains some sensible advice for people new to blogging. The discussions at the end of the course on blog promotion and maintaining your blog are interesting and I would have welcomed it if these segments had gone on for longer.

However, the biggest issue for a lot of people with this course is likely to be that it only covers using the online service at WordPress.com and doesn’t include any specific training for the server install of WordPress. Although a lot of the subjects covered are still relevant for people using the standalone application, there is plenty to know about installing and upgrading WordPress which you won’t learn here.

If you want to hear Maria discuss some of the pros and cons of using WordPress.com vs a server install, there is a useful interview with her available on MacVoices which serves as a nice supplement to the training course.

MacVoices #8112: Maria Langer Talks WordPress.com Training and Why It Is Better on Video

The current WordPress.com training title is still a great guide for beginners seeking to start blogging and for people who’ve used other packages who want to get a basic idea of WordPress’s features. Maybe a good way for lynda.com to develop their WordPress training in future would be to keep this as the beginner’s level title, but also to produce an “advanced” WordPress course which includes discussion of the server installation, upgrades, backups and possibly further discussion of promotion and SEO for WordPress blogs. [Update (27/02/09) - I've noticed that  an advanced WordPress course by Maria Langer became available on lynda.com in January - see Self-Hosting a WordPress site.]

WordPress.com Essential Training is available from lynda.com as a CD-ROM, or online via subscription.