In the middle of 2007, I was interviewed by Stephane Grenier for his book, Blog Blazers. The book came out this week, and it’s a nice resource for understanding the approach top bloggers take to their trade. (Examples of interviews include Seth Godin, Steve Rubel, and JD Roth.)

I am publishing my own interview here, with a few tweaks. And I talk a lot about how to have a successful blog.

But my favorite thing about this interview is that it captures a moment in time: when I was blogging full time and making six-figures. I had just sold equity in my blog and was about to spin off my company, Brazen Careerist. My days were spent in a coffee shop, interviewing people about their ideas, and blogging.

It sounds like a great life, and in fact, it was nice. I didn’t realize it was great though. I was in marriage counseling, not making good progress. And I was anxious that I was not doing enough with my blog. I wanted to do better in everything.

And that’s the instructive part, to me: That there were a lot of good things about what was going on at that time, but I didn’t focus on them. I focused on what I wanted next.

So, as I publish this post today, I remind myself to be happy about what feels good, right now, instead of focusing on what I want to change right now. Wherever we are in life, we have those two, separate lists, and we can choose which to focus on at any given time. Here’s three cheers for choosing the happy list for a day.

Stephane
What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc?

Penelope
It helps you to reach your goals— either career or personal.

Stephane
When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Penelope
I love blogging, and I am able to support my family doing it. So on some level, success is being able to support my family doing something I love. On another level, I am redefining success constantly, because once I reach a goal, I set a higher goal.

Stephane
How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Penelope
I'm sure it's different for each person. Each person has different goals, different definitions of success.

Stephane
Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the Internet today?

Penelope
The people who are using their blog to reach their goals.

Stephane
Which five blogs do you regularly read?


Penelope

Guy Kawasaki's blog
Lifehacker
Get Rich Slowly
Employee Evolution
TechCrunch

Stephane
Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers stating to blog?

Penelope
ProBlogger

Stephane
Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc)?

Penelope
The Sensual Woman
. I read it when I was a kid and I was trying to figure out what sex was. I didn't really understand—at that point—why people would even want to have sex. But what I did understand was that if you were your real self, and just did what felt right, you would meet the definition of “good in bed.” And then, very quickly, I realized that this book applied to everything in life—just be your true self and people will see that you enjoy yourself and they will see the true you and whoever you are, seeing that will be interesting. I think a lot of bloggers are scared to be their true selves on their blog, but so much of blogging is about the blogger's personality. So people should read this book—to understand how fundamental it is to just be yourself.

Stephane
What is your most successful blog post ever?

Penelope
Well, success is a tough thing to define, but the post about my first day of marriage counseling got me in a front-page article in the New York Times and the post became a feature for a British women’s magazine and my Google rank for the term “marriage counseling” is an SEO dream.

Stephane
What's your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Penelope
Find a very popular topic and then write at the very edge of that topic. If you write in the center, that's where everyone else is and it will be hard to present something that is unique. If you write at the edge, and throw in stuff not totally related to your topic area, then both you and your readers will find surprise in that intersection of the new stuff and your topic.

Stephane
What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Penelope
Keep writing.

Stephane
How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Penelope
Very important. It's how people decide if they will read or not.

Stephane
What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Penelope
Write good posts. Joint the online conversation that is bigger than my blog.

Stephane
Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Penelope
Being nice. A blog is a conversation, not a soapbox. So when I engage my readers, and when I talk with other bloggers, via their blogs, people really respond in a positive way.

Stephane
Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc?

Penelope
Yes. I earn a six-figure income from my blog.

Stephane
What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc).

Penelope
I sell my blog posts to print and online publishers.

Stephane
Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?

Penelope
I think that long-term, the blog opens a lot of doors that are new career opportunities more than direct dollar income.

Stephane
What's your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?

Penelope
I try harder in marriage counseling because so many people are reading about my counseling experience on my blog.

Stephane
What's the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Penelope
I sold equity in my blog and spun off a separate company.

Stephane
Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Penelope
I don't think people should look at blogging as a money making venture. Every few people can make money off a blog. But blogging opens tons of doors”?via networking, especially, because bloggers have access to people they would not otherwise get access to. Blogging is a great way to build a career if you know what you want from your career. This doesn't necessarily mean that blogging itself is a great career. It's probably best as a means to create stability in one's career by getting to the top of one's field. I think bloggers in general are smart, dedicated, and exceptionally well-informed. Blogging takes a ton of time, so most people are blogging about career-related stuff because that's the only area that is worth the time commitment. So it makes sense that bloggers would be great hires, and blogging, therefore, will help people to get to the top of their field.

46 replies
  1. Rachel .:. A Step Ahead
    Rachel .:. A Step Ahead says:

    I really like how you emphasize that your blog should help you reach your goals. I started blogging in order to improve my writing skills, get my name out there as a writer and to network. I think if I had started with the goal to make money, I wouldn’t have kept going with it.

  2. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I really appreciated the comment about writing on the edge. I think anyone can write a blog about anything, but to make it interesting, you have to put yourself into it. I think that’s what the edge is about.

    Also, I can’t stand when new bloggers don’t engage with readers. If I’m spending time to comment, I hope you comment back too. No successful bloggers ignore their readership.

  3. Maya
    Maya says:

    Awesome Penelope! I voted it on StumbleUpon because I really think a LOT of bloggers should read this. Too many people stop blogging prematurely since they have a very narrow view of what blogging is and/or what they want to achieve from it.

    Your advice is really different from mainstream blogging advice. It makes sense really. And it might prevent burnout that I see so many bloggers experiencing.

    I was expecting you to say something different on the most surprising marketing tactic though.

    I am curious – do you think your route of monetization takes a LOT longer to achieve? I am curious as to how many years it took for your blog to get where it is today – in terms of the money it brings you and/or the numbers of readers it engages? Surely, your success has a lot to do with how much wealth of information there is in your blog.

    And do you have an editor who does SEO related stuff for your blog?

    Thx!

    * * * * * *

    Before I was a blogger, I was a print columnist. So I already had a market for selling my blog posts to print media before I even started blogging. It took me about five years of writing weekly columns for free before I developed a large print market for my writing.

    I have a blog editor, but he doesn’t edit for SEO stuff. He just edits to make sure I’m not boring.

    When I did the interview in this post, I was spending about ten hours a day on my blog. No days off. Each blog post was taking three to four hours to write. And I was responding to the majority of commenters (see Rebecca’s comment above on that.) I say this to give people warning of how much of a full-time job it is to make a living as a blogger.

    -Penelope

  4. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    Perfect Thanksgiving post, Penelope. Not necessarily the blogging advice (which is great, esp about being on the edge instead of in the middle), but your candor about how you didn’t appreciate how great your life was at that time until you revisited it. Goes along with my hindsight comment on your last post about happiness. Too many people so focused on what they want/need in the future, they forget to appreciate what’s great about NOW.

  5. Nisha Chittal
    Nisha Chittal says:

    I love this post. I see a lot of new blogs that are really focused on loading up their blog with SEO keywords and AdWords, and those people seem to think the only measure of a successful blog is if they can generate lots of revenue from it. But I totally agree with you that a blog is successful if it helps you reach your goals and opens doors for you, not just if you can make money off of it.

  6. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    I’m glad you reminded readers to consider blogging as a great networking mechanism. For strong writers who are willing to invest their time and freely share their expertise, blogging is an amazing tool. I advise many of my clients to start a blog to help propel their job hunts. I don’t think you can beat blogging and joining conversations on other blogs for building connections in your field.

    As you note, having a quality blog takes time, effort and expertise. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years, having a blog becomes an informal requirement to win interviews for certain jobs. Plus, you can’t beat blogging for the control it offers over your Google results. If you’re creating your own content, and that is what comes up when people Google you, you’re golden!

  7. Holly Hoffman
    Holly Hoffman says:

    What a wonderful reminder, P. There are all sorts of moments, especially over the past 19 months, that I remember fondly despite the shiite I was going through. I keep looking for that in the hard times I’m having now with very little success. I’m gonna keep trying though!

  8. JP
    JP says:

    I agree that blogs are a great networking tool

    I would love to blog on something but my interests are just to vast. I got bored with one subject easily. As an American living in Italy, I would have many subjects that are of interest to readers but I am still too busy living them all….

  9. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    Thanks for the reminder to us all that writing takes time and blog posts don’t just magically appear out of thin air. I also appreciate ‘writing on the edge’ and know you’ve told us about that in other posts – it’s important.

    I’m grateful for your blog and those you’ve syndicated. I love your ‘brand’ – refreshing, clear and authentic.

  10. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Hm…nothing really controversial here and I’m not wincing. Am I on the right blog? Yep, I recognize the blogger in the banner. Oh, well that explains it, the title includes the phrase “and be thankful”. We’re giving thanks and counting our blessings about a week in advance of turkey day. We all get a breather today. :)
    On a more serious note – a good post about good blogging. Thanks for sharing this interview. Good blogging may appear to be easy and simple on the surface – similar to a duck moving around on the pond. What we don’t see is the furious paddling beneath the surface. I like your perspective on blogging in your last interview response. Blogging is a very good tool for advancing a career but not the only tool and the implementation, of course, is the key.
    Hooray for choosing the happy list today!

  11. Codrut Turcanu / Blogging for Money
    Codrut Turcanu / Blogging for Money says:

    Yeah. It’s a shame and we are not happy with what we want, and just desire something which we don’t have yet. Usually we’re looking selfishly at other people’s things…

    I realized that being happy with what you already have and using that to the maximum (to get a lot more out of it!) is KEY to life & business success!

  12. Kat
    Kat says:

    Nice interview. Thanks for sharing.

    Although you do link to other blogs and sites etc., I was just wondering why you decided not to go down the route of adding ‘Google AdWords’ or other advertising? Is it simply because you didn’t want to earn money that way from your blog?

    * * * * * *
    I don’t use Google AdWords because it’s such a small amount of money that I see it as a distraction. There were ways for me to earn a lot more money from my blog — book deal, sponsorship, print syndication, and finally, spinning off another company.

    But even if you can’t get that stuff from your own blog, there are things you can get from a blog that will change your career much more than the amount of money you get from Google ads. For example, connections, ideas, learning opportunities that you get from a blog could change your life. I think this other stuff is much more important to focus on than AdSense.

    That said, probably those Google Ads take two seconds to put on a blog, and they do generate money. So for some people, maybe it’s a good idea.

    -Penelope

  13. le
    le says:

    Hello P

    re ….

    So, as I publish this post today, I remind myself to be happy about what feels good, right now, instead of focusing on what I want to change right now. Wherever we are in life, we have those two, separate lists, and we can choose which to focus on at any given time. Here’s three cheers for choosing the happy list for a day.

    Why would you only choose the happy list for a day …. why not move to there six out of seven days … or – gasp – permanently …. now would that not be nice … I’m making the move.

    cheers le

  14. Lorie
    Lorie says:

    This couldn’t be more timely. I spent the evening dwelling on all the things that weren’t the way I wanted them to be. This morning I wake up to find your message to focus on the happy things. I have so much that is good, but lost focus. Thanks for the redirection.
    Lorie

  15. Ruthie
    Ruthie says:

    Thanks. I mean it, I read your blog via email feed and about every 3rd post I think to myself “wow, I always learn something new from her” so thanks, for teaching me some new things and for putting it all out there. You are more appreciated than you know.
    Ruthie

  16. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    This is a great blog for a new blogger like me. Some great tips here that I sooo appreciate and will be sure to use to develop my own voice. Thanks so much for sharing.

  17. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Love that this advice is honest about blogging when it comes to making money. So many people think they can make a direct income off blogging, but really, to the majority of bloggers, it’s more about the other opportunties presented.

  18. Lane
    Lane says:

    Thank you for posting about being yourself. When you are yourself, you are vulnerable in a way that invites people to open themselves to you. They recognize that it takes guts to be genuine and put yourself out there for all to see. Being fake is easy – you can always say, “well, that’s not really me.”

    Connections made when you are being your most real will provide the greatest opportunities and relationships, I have found.

  19. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Additional information –

    There’s a good pdf document recently released by Google titled – Google’s SEO starter guide. It is located at http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html
    It actually covers more than SEO and dispenses good advice such as
    “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.” and
    “Create content primarily for your users, not search engines – Designing your site around your visitors’ needs while making sure your site is easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results.
    Avoid:
    – €¢ inserting numerous unnecessary keywords aimed at search engines but are annoying or nonsensical to users …
    are just two examples.

  20. micsmith
    micsmith says:

    Great post. I should follow some of the suggestions… but I like the idea of blogging just to blog.

    No ads. No editor. No expectations.

    Maybe that is because like 98% of the bloggers, I have no one wanting to buy ads, edit me, and I keep my expectations so low that they are imposssible not to attain.

    By the way, I continue to wonder… what became of the farmer?

  21. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Great interview Penelope!
    I agree with you that a blog can pay off in more ways than direct cash. I do have ads on my blog, but the connections I’ve made and opportunities I’ve had far outweigh the peanuts I make from ads (even being on a huge ad network).

    And now I am ready to create a business from my blog. I’ve improved my writing, have networked with great bloggers, have made friends across the world, and I feel I am starting to establish myself as a vintage 2.0 expert.

    You cannot put a price on these things.

  22. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Like Rachel, I started blogging for reasons other than money. My primary goal was to get me back in the habit of writing regularly and my blog has been great for that.

    What’s more, interacting with my readers and seeing their responses has encouraged me to go a step further and actually write a book instead of just talking about it. It’s hbeen instrumental in realizing that I’m not crazy, that there is a market for what I’ve written.

  23. Dale
    Dale says:

    Blogging is indeed also a cathartic exercise. I sometimes spend hours reading posts and not commenting, then, something I read really sets me off or touches me and I have to put my opinion down.
    It’s a fact that this is somewhat like the motivation a few of my favorite bloggers experience. They see or encounter something and then they must let it out. This makes for the most interesting and heartfelt of posts, and the ones I learn the most from.

    My2centsworth

  24. Nicolas
    Nicolas says:

    Hi,

    I started blogging on time management when I was in a crisis and close to a burn-out. I collected about 200 tips by now. The interesting part is that writing in these tips significantly improved my own time management skills.

    Nicolas

  25. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    A friend of mine suggested your site to me when I told her that I was interested in starting my own blog, (actually I had already began working on it) and I am so grateful.
    Thank you so much for the time you take to inform others.
    Not only do I not feel as clueless as before, I now feel more confident. I will definitely be using your site for future reference Thank you again.

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