Chris Brogan on Building Blog Traffic and Businesses

chris-brogan-interviewWant to get blogging tips from the most successful bloggers in the world? Blogging Success Stories is an interview series to help you learn from the best, stay motivated  to keep improving and send you away with actionable blogging tips.

I’m honored to be interviewing one of the most respected business and social media experts in the world here. Chris Brogan  is the author of the best-selling books The Impact Equation and Trust Agents. He’s been working with online communities and social media for 12 years, blogging for eight years and set up Human Business Works to help other business professionals achieve the success they’re dreaming of.

There are a zillion business and social media experts online but I call Chris “Big Boy

Brogan” because this industry is dominated by men I call the Big Boys and Chris is the biggest there is. Plus I do love a little alliteration. But whatever you call him Chris does earn the most respect, talk the most sense and have the most followers in the blogging world.

Chris has been on my radar since I started blogging four years ago but it’s only over the last 12 months or so that I’ve started to fully appreciate his wisdom, advice and writing.

Some bloggers you fall in love with immediately then lose interest in but I think my experience shows why Chris is so well respected and has achieved such longevity in this fast-moving world of social media and blogging. Not only does he have the goods but he delivers them again and again and again. If you’re not convinced just sign up for his weekly newsletter and see for yourself.

In one of those newsletters Chris mentioned that people shouldn’t reply asking him for an interview. So I spotted an opportunity and did just that.

I promised to ask only five questions which I intended to do but then of course there were more questions I wanted to ask him so I did. Basically I disgusted myself with a bait and switch which is probably mentioned in Chris’s Book Trust Agents under what not to do.

So that’s how I captured Chris Brogan’s thoughts on blogging and blog advertising along with a few of his hottest blogging tips.

At the moment some bloggers, in particular fashion and lifestyle bloggers, are making a decent living from writing sponsored blog posts. Just to be clear that’s where they are paid by a brand to write about a specific product with a disclaimer explaining that in their post.

What’s the future of blog advertising? Have blog advertising rates reached their peak as some people say? Is this phenomenon a flash in the pan or do you think earning a living from blog advertising is sustainable long-term?

I think that we’re trending more and more away from banners and more and more into sponsored content marketing. I think that there will be a few ways to do it. A “magazine” of useful content with links scattered through it seems like the most likely approach. Blog posts and blogger outreach will be the other.

Okay so it doesn’t sound like you think sponsored blog posts are endangered then. 

My primary focus is business blogging – helping small business owners use blogging to promote their business services or products. Do you think it’s possible to do that and earn extra income from advertising and writing sponsored blog posts on the side or do you think small business owners who blog should keep the focus entirely on their own offerings?

I think advertising is a tough row to hoe. I’m getting over 200,000 monthly unique views and I can pay the mortgage with that. If you’re not getting a huge volume of traffic, or you’re not advertising larger ticket cost products, then no, I don’t think you can self-sustain on that.

If you work hard to be a media company and not just a blog, you have a shot. But it won’t just come because you write about hats.

Can you tell us roughly how many unique visitors you have on your blog each month versus how many people subscribe to your email newsletter (which is quite different content) and how much overlap there is between those two groups?

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My stats are 235,ooo Twitter followers, 200,ooo unique visitors to my blog each month, 25,ooo newsletter subscriptions, and 35,ooo monthly downloads of my podcast.

If you could only have one of those outlets which would you choose and what would you say to convince a lazy bones like me to write an email newsletter which only subscribers will ever see as well as updating my blogs regularly?

Newsletter sells more than ANY of these other outlets. By far. And buyers surveyed by Citi back in 2009 or so said that 4% of people will buy from twitter, 11% from Facebook, but 91% from email.

Well, that’s pretty convincing and another reminder that we need to build those email lists.

In your newsletters you write a lot about the importance of not being too selly selly. I’m the opposite and rarely push anything. Is there a ratio you can recommend? I once heard that give-give-take (or suggest!) is a good rule of thumb. As a business owner do you have a formula or schedule for that or is it more based on noticing a drop in income and making an offer to offset that?

Oh I love to sell. I just make sure that people don’t ONLY sell. No one buys a magazine full of ads. I sell gently on non-sell days and I sell hard about every 4 weeks.

That sounds like a good plan. I’ve blogged for almost four years over on my travel blog Get In the Hot Spot and I’ve made every mistake in the book. I’m still making them. But my blog traffic seems to have stabilized and I’m not seeing much growth. What would you say to all those intermediate bloggers like me who’ve reached a plateau?

Most people hit a plateau because they’re not hunting for new markets. If you just build it, they won’t come. You have to do that.

So what’s the best way for bloggers to hunt for and capture interest from a new market? I guess it can’t be great content because that’s part of the building it process. So what do you recommend as the best way for bloggers to find new readers?

Comment on like-minded posts WITHOUT pushing people back to yours. Give your best thoughts in comments and you’ll capture other people’s thoughts.

Participate in social platforms where people are talking about what you’re into, again, without pushing too hard to get people back to your site.

Offer to write guest posts on other rising (but not the top) sites in your space. This is what earns you traffic via social platforms.

Even though I asked you more questions than I planned to I still have plenty more I’d like to ask Chris. But I think I’ve been cheeky enough already so I’ll end here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and share your blogging tips with the Successful Blogging team. We really appreciate that. 

Get More Business and Blogging Tips From Chris Brogan

Do pop over to Chris’s blog to see why he’s so popular. Thank you. I know he’ll love that. And I recommend you sign up for his weekly newsletter too if you’re the slightest bit interested in growing your business or blog.

Then, if you’d like to thank Mr. Brogan personally for his time helping us, here’s a ready-made tweet you might like to share:

THANK YOU I @ChrisBrogan for sharing your blogging tips in the interview with @BloggingMentor

I’d love that too because you can never thank people enough can you? Thank you for that!

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12 thoughts on “Chris Brogan on Building Blog Traffic and Businesses”

  1. Hi Johanna,

    I really don't think you need that many subscribers to succeed. I know plenty of bloggers with far fewer readers and smaller email lists who have still gained success and created a viable business.

    I guess that's what Chris means by thinking of yourself as or creating a media company. If you want to make money from blogging you have to focus on the business side of it and avoid blogging for blogging's sake.

    Don't be daunted! It's a challenge I know you're working on slowly but surely.

  2. Interesting read. A few points in reply if I may. Too much promoting and advertising and I just stop reading anything. I question the figures is this guy is quoting. Is he telling us that sending out 100 direct emails is going to generate me 91 sales? Well I think not in a million years whatever the product. We would all be millionaires if that was the case. The other thing as Annabel above said, it depends by what yard stick you measure success. Not all of us want thousands upon thousands of non-interested followers. How many does this guy have that are actually there to be seen themselves and using him as vehicle to sell their own products. I would rather have just a few that were actually interested and engaging with my artwork but hey I know I'm small fry compared to these multi-triple-billlion-zillion collecting followers. The biggest element that seems to be missing with all this is personal contact it all seems a bit too cold and clinical but I suppose a lot of us blog for different reasons. I do it for the fun of it, not for fame and fortune even though I do try to sell my humble artworks. Thanks for the brain puzzler today.

    • Hi Laura,

      Great to see you here and of course we love hearing from you.

      Hmm, I see what you mean but my understanding is that 91% of people would CONSIDER buying something recommended in an email. The general figure of how many will actually buy by email is only 1% although some people can get as high as 10%.

      I think Chris Brogan has a lot of genuinely interested followers – well, if I'm anything to go by. I read all his emails and I bet the click through rate on them is pretty high. That's how many people actually open the emails. I bet he's hitting 30-50% because most of them aren't salesy and have great information and thought provoking ideas.

      I think you're doing it in the right way by focusing on the fun. That's the most important part as you'll never stick with it if it's not fun plus everyone wants to hang out with fun people so you should build a lovely following that way. And you probably don't need millions of them either though that depends how much you're selling you art for I suppose 🙂 It looks beautiful by the way. I love birds too.

  3. Excellent interview, Annabel. Thanks Chris!

    A very, very slight quibble concerning "nobody buys a magazine full of ads."

    There is one notable exception: Vogue!

    I'll pick up a Vogue once in a while just because of the ads!

    But think about what that says, and how it really does support what Chris is saying: it is about the content.

    I would be really amazed to see Vogue's model be effective online. There's only one person I know who might be able to make it work sooner than later, and that's Noah Kagan with AppSumo. From the blogging world, Mars Dorian is the only person who comes to mind who might be able to pull it off eventually. He has the imagination and drive to be sure.

    • Hi Dave,

      Well it does have some articles too. But I know what you mean. The photography, creativity and beauty in those ads is a feast for the eyes.

      Oh Mars is indeed marvelous and I will have to check out Noah too. Thanks for the ideas and recommendations 🙂

  4. Here's to fun first for most of us. It does need to be intrinsically rewarding or people would never work so hard.

    It made me laugh to read that he loves selling, it's so different to me, I feel like a dinosaur from a bygone age. But actually, I think that because I worked at the BBC for so long, and it really suited me, I am totally into creating good stuff, all for content and the selling is just a pain.

    You can tell I am not having to feed my family from the blog!! But it has started generating income and it's a long-term thing for me.

  5. Maybe I'm naive, but Chris said, "Comment on like-minded posts WITHOUT pushing people back to yours. Give your best thoughts in comments and you’ll capture other people’s thoughts."
    This sounds like everything else I've read, it's all about connecting with people and being "authentic." Not being pushy and aggressive. So I'm happy for Chris agrees with the old-fashioned polite ways. We all have different goals.

  6. Hi Chris,
    It is absolutely right point you are explained, there are lot of ways
    to help bloggers
    thanq for sharing an important thing with us , keep sharing

  7. I found this an extremely helpful blog post. I am astounded at how many visitors he has, but I guess he has been doing it for years and I've been at it for less than two weeks haha.

    I think interacting with others is a great way to build your site and something people probably don't do enough of. Relationships are key.

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