By: Emily Bennington, Contributing Writer
When the New York Times not-so-subtly implied that mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong was making millions from her site, I nearly spit out my coffee.
Seriously -- how do people do that?
How does a small business blog go from having roughly 60 visitors a day, according to Armstrong herself, to earning upwards of seven figures?
To find out, I went in search of small business owners who were profiting from their blogs -- not only in terms of real dollars -- but through successful customer marketing and helping build their company brand, as well as supporting their employment blog strategy. Here’s what they had to say:
1.) Successful bloggers are committed. You won’t find any red-faced, “Sorry I haven’t written in a while…” posts from this crowd. Successful small business bloggers understand they have to update their site a minimum of two or three times per week to keep readers coming back.
“Think about how often you want to post on your blog and how you will incorporate writing into your other responsibilities,” says Sharlyn Lauby, who founded her blog, HR Bartender, as a way to reach customers without creating an electronic newsletter.
Because she generates revenue directly from her site through affiliate programs, advertising, and sponsored posts, Lauby takes her writing appointments as seriously as she would a client meeting. “I write three times a week,” she says. “It’s scheduled on my calendar.”
2.) Successful bloggers are savvy marketers. Dan Schawbel launched Personal Branding Blog in 2007 using a free Wordpress platform. Rather than sit back and wait for the needle to move, however, he hustled to build an audience.
“I wrote ten to twelve times per week, while having a full-time job, commenting on other blogs, and writing articles for online sources and magazines,” he says. By 2010, Schawbel had more than 10,000 subscribers, landed a book deal, and walked away from corporate life to start his own firm, Millennial Branding.
These days, Schawbel receives direct revenue from his blog through banner advertising via Google AdSense and from sponsored posts that bring in $500 a pop.
He also started leveraging his time by posting content on the blog from a community of hand-selected writers rather than doing it all himself. “I made the choice to bring in other contributors so the blog could be sustained, grow and allow me to focus on the marketing aspect as to drive traffic and visibility for the contributors,” he says.
3.) Successful bloggers are brand builders. In 2005 when Skip Lineberg was CEO of communications firm Maple Creative, he started a blog to help his company develop a reputation as “thought leaders” in their field.
“The blog was designed to help us locate clients who weren’t necessarily looking for new business cards, but someone to help them with their comprehensive marketing strategy,” he says.
Turns out, the blog garnered more than clients -- it also became a key part of Maple’s recruitment strategy.
“The blog was an outlet to showcase our personalities and talk about the work we were doing in real time,” he says. “This really resonated with job seekers because we more than tripled the number of inquiries from people who wanted to work for us.”
4.) Successful bloggers are patient. When it comes to company brand building through a blog, however, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t come easy and it certainly doesn’t come overnight.
While Heather Armstrong may be raking in $30,000+ per month now, she started Dooce in 2001 when blogging was still relatively new and it was easier to capture market share. “Blogging is a lot of work and it takes a while to grow your audience and see real success,” says Sharlyn Lauby. “You can get discouraged, but hang in there.”
Certainly the idea of “hanging in there” is becoming increasingly relevant as more people abandon blogs altogether in favor of easier ways to distribute information like Twitter and Tumblr. However, less bloggers in the market mean more opportunity for those who stick it out. Moreover, since the nature of a successful social media strategy is to share, those people who are generating information (ahem, bloggers) are more likely to be cited and circulated around the web.
So the bottom line when it comes to blogging is that -- YES -- you can use a blog to build your business with a little web know-how and a lot of hard work. And while it’s unlikely your blog will ever become your primary source of income, it can turn current readers into future buyers -- not to mention attract talent -- making it a worthwhile investment indeed.
Emily Bennington is coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of career success and the founder of Professional Studio 365 , which provides onboarding services to new grads and their employers. Emily has been featured on CNN, ABC News and Fox Business, as well as quoted in publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, US News and World Report, and Washington Post Express. In addition to writing for Monster.com, Emily is a featured blogger The Huffington Post and Forbes Woman. She can be found online at Professionalstudio365 or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.