Archive for Blogging

My kids at Disney Social Media Moms, or why I don't have mommy guilt about my blog

Mom, Do You Have What it Takes to Launch a Successful Blogging Business?

My kids at Disney Social Media Moms, aka why I don't have mommy guilt about my blog - do they look lonely and deprived?

Every single week, my husband and his friends get together to play video games.  I used to joke that I’d have to be dying for him to stay home. The truth is that they commit to it and make it happen. It’s not unusual for one of them to miss it (they all have very young children), but game night goes on. I once tried to organize a monthly get-together that consisted mostly of the wives of this same group of guys. We got together one time because they started dropping out each month. Their husbands were working late (something that never happens on game night), the kids were sick, or something else had come up. I was one of the only ones in the group who was able and willing to consistently put that time aside for myself, ask my husband to back me up (which he happily did), and make the ongoing commitment.

Fast forward to now as I grow my blogging and freelancing career. It probably seems to newbies that mom bloggers are successful because they’ve holed themselves up in their home offices typing away (and tirelessly caring for their home and kids). While there are a few cases where this is true, generally it is not. These bloggers are out making connections, building relationships, and growing their businesses. Although I’m hardly the most successful blogger, I am still one of those women. I know that regardless of the size of my blog, I won’t get the opportunities if people don’t know who I am. And just as importantly, I have to know who others are, as well. Once again, I put that time aside for my business, ask my husband to back me up, and make an ongoing commitment by attending events, traveling, and meeting new people. If I can make it to an event that I’m even vaguely interested in, I go. You never know what interesting people you’ll meet.

The past few weeks, I’ve had a number of public and private conversations with other moms about growing their own blogging businesses and connecting more with brands. And the consistent challenge that I’m seeing is that they are not able and/or willing to put forth the investment of time, money (yes, building a business will cost you something), and self that is required to properly launch a business. Much like the moms in the social group I tried to start, they have too many hurdles – childcare fell through, a sick kid is home, a hubby has to travel/work late/do whatever, there is a family commitment.

So here is the big secret of successful bloggers who are moms: they jump over those hurdles whenever they can. We all have to deal with those things. Dads have to deal with those things, too. And this is where you have to make a decision. You either find a way to bypass as many hurdles as possible, or you accept that you are not likely to launch into blogger superstardom right now. Because the worst thing you can do is hover in the middle, making commitments and breaking them, and burning all of your bridges in the process.  Your professionalism is part of your blogging currency.

Please understand that this isn’t a judgment. We all have different circumstances and priorities and that’s OK. But if you look at the bloggers who are getting the big opportunities, you’re going to find that they generally have some things in common.

  • They’ve got childcare help, either from a truly supportive partner, or family, or a reliable sitter or nanny. Most likely, there’s even backup help.
  • They are flexible and creative with hurdle jumping. When something comes up, they work to find a solution and they use all of the resources at their disposal. It helps them remain a reliable person to work with.
  • They have some kind of budget for their business. And don’t forget that it may be funds they’ve been saving for years.
  • They’ve managed to either let go of or channel their mom guilt. You simply can’t build a business without sacrificing some time with your kids, especially if they are home with you 24/7. And you probably won’t be there for every soccer game, talent show, or science fair. I let go of mine by reminding myself that my kids are watching their mom follow her passion – exactly what I want for them – and that they get some pretty cool perks out of it.
  • They are present. When opportunities arise, they are there, because they know that’s where the magic happens.
  • They work damn hard. Regardless of what you think of their writing or content or layout, chances are that they have put in their time (writing and/or networking).

So now is the time to ask yourself if you’re ready. Do you have most or all of those elements? Can you put them in place? If no, that’s fine. Now isn’t the right time for you to go all out. You can work on slowly building your business until you are ready. Otherwise, jump on in, Sister. There’s plenty of room for us all!

Combining Multiple RSS Feeds to One RSS Feed

Do you blog in more than one place?  If so, you may be looking to combine these blogs into one single RSS feed – either for a widget, a Twitter feed, a Facebook feed, or a page on your professional site (see mine here). Yahoo! Pipes is one way to do this, and while it can be complicated, once you get it set up, it runs on its own. Check out the video tutorial below for full instructions.

Should You Be Working For Free?

Thanks to this great article by Danielle of the Sway Group, a whole lot of bloggers are talking about when it’s appropriate to work for free.  It seems that there is a lot of confusion, because, let’s face it – a lot of what bloggers do is work for free.  So, when is it appropriate?  And when are you being taken advantage of.  I think it’s important to break this discussion out between content on your blog versus content on someone else’s site.

On Your Blog

First and foremost, I think you should use a five-pronged rule of thumb whenever deciding what to post on your blog.  If you are answering no more than yes, you shouldn’t post, regardless of pay.

  1. Is there value in it for your readers?
  2. Are you going to enjoy writing about it?
  3. Does it fit in with the existing content and strategy of your site?
  4. Is it somewhat exclusive to your site?
  5. Is it something you believe in?

Once you’ve satisfied the rules, then it’s time to decide if you should be paid.  The key question here is – Is it a purely editorial review?

If it’s a purely editorial review – i.e, you receive the product, use it, and write about it on your own terms, this should not be paid beyond the product.

If the company is asking you to include specific content, to highlight specific features, to include anchor text and links, to Tweet and Facebook, or do anything else beyond write your own opinion, then you should probably get paid for it (and disclose appropriately).

Content on another site

Sometimes bloggers are asked to post on another site (even this site) for no pay.  Is it worth doing?  In some cases, yes it is, but in other cases, no, it is no.

Here are a few key questions:

What are you being asked to do?

If you are signing any paperwork at all, you should be careful here.  Are you giving up your ownership of the content?  You should be paid.  Are you signing a non-compete?  You should be paid.

What are they offering in return?

Are you being offered exposure?  You should know what that amounts do.  If you are blogging for a micro-site, keep in mind that the micro-site may have almost no traffic.  If the site is asking for you to Tweet and Facebook, chances are, they are looking for YOU to offer THEM exposure – so how can you expect to get exposure from them?  I once agreed to blog for free, and look at what happened!

If you think you are going to get a reasonable amount of exposure, or are going to have a great learning experience, it may be worth it to blog for free.  But keep an eye on your stats and see if you are getting anything from it.

Finally, if you are a SOURCE of info for a television show, news program, newspaper article, or magazine article, you probably shouldn’t expect to be paid.

Making Money With Online Advertising

You’ve probably heard that most bloggers don’t make the majority of their money through online advertising, and that’s definitely true.  However, you can still make money with ads – and here’s how!

Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertising is available as both CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per thousand impressions).  You can make more money with cost per click, because the advertiser is paying for a visitor, but you have more control over the money you make through impressions.  If you are getting paid on impressions, most advertisers want ads “above the fold” which means the area of your site that shows when you first look at the site (without having to scroll down).  Having a smaller header on your site means you’ll have more room for above the fold ads.

Most ad networks have requirements you’ll need to comply with, and you generally have to be accepted into the network.  Many networks sell ads on all of their “inventory”, not specifically for your site.

Suggested networks:

Burst Media
Six Apart Media
Google Adsense
Federated Media

In-Text Ads:

Unlike text links, in-line ads are not delivered as hyperlinks.  When users mouse over the link, an ad pops up.  If the user clicks on it, you receive revenue.  Some complain that they are obtrusive, but, the good thing is that don’t take up any additional space on your site.

Suggested Networks:

Kontera

Text Links

Text links are an actual hyperlink placed on your site.  Google frowns on these, but they pay really well, so it’s up to you to make your own decision.

Suggested Networks:

Text Link Ads

Affiliate Networks:

When you have an affiliate relationship with a company, you’ll receive a percentage of the revenue generated when a customer clicks on a link or ad on your site, and then makes a purchase.  These relationships can pay well when you have the perfect content on your site, but it can be difficult to make money.

Suggested Networks:

Share A Sale
Amazon

Affiliate links

Jodi Grundig is a co-founder of Boston Parent Bloggers, and is the editor/publisher of Mom’s Favorite Stuff, Family Friendly Boston, and Family Travel Magazine

Boston Parent Bloggers Tip of the Week – Legwork

One of my favorite things about Boston Parent Bloggers and about blogging in general is the chance to help other people start seeing their visions come to life through blogging. Whether it’s just a place to express yourself, promotion for another business, a chance to meet new people, or the beginning of your social media empire, blogging is fun. When you’re just getting started, there are so many questions you may have, and it’s great to have someone who can lend a hand, mentor you, and keep you from making some big mistakes. I truly enjoy that and I’m happy to help out. That said, you have to be willing to do some of the work on your own.

  • If you’ve researched blogging platforms and want to know which one I use and why, please ask. But don’t ask me to choose a platform for you, or outline all of the pros and cons of each.
  • If you want help installing a plugin on your blog, or have a problem with a particular setting, ask. But don’t ask me, “How do I get started?”
  • If you’re attending a conference for the first time and I’ve already been, I can certainly provide some tips for getting the most out of things, but you should also read the conference website and seek out other blogs that have information on how to prepare and what to do.
Google (or Bing or even Yahoo) is your friend. Do your homework. And this is not only because I’m a busy person and I expect that you’ll honor how valuable my time is, but because your blog is your business. If you aren’t motivated enough to go out there and look around, if you aren’t so excited and curious that you want to learn as much as you can, you are not going to succeed. The bloggers you see making an income from their work (not through their blogs, but through work that comes from their blogs) didn’t learn to do so from a book or from someone holding their hand through every step. They got there through trial and error and a passion so great that nothing could stand in their way. So, do as much as you can on your own. But do know that if you get stuck, there is most likely someone else out there who is happy to help you get past your hurdle.

Boston Parent Blogger Tip of the Week – Relationships

Becoming a respected member of the blogosphere is all about building relationships and it doesn’t happen overnight. Connect with other bloggers, join and engage on a few social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook being the most important right now), attend events and conferences, and participate on other blogs you enjoy. If you’re looking for opportunities, you can’t just tuck yourself away and focus on your blog. You’ve got to build those relationships as well.

WordCamp Boston

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

Image via Wikipedia

What I did on my summer vacation.

So this one time, at WordCamp….

I went to camp this summer; minus the mosquitoes and smores. (Bummer on the latter.) WordCamp was an informal day and a half Boston conference in July that focused on everything WordPress. Casual users (aka: me) to core developers got together to participate, share ideas, and get to know each other over a common platform: WordPress. There were some great sponsors too, like Zemanta, !Oomph, VaultPress, ISITE Design, and .tv.

There were five main tracks: (1) How To, (2) Development, (3) Education, (4) Strategy, and (5) Advanced Development. The How to Session focused, for example, on how to use WordPress as a Blogging platform. The Education track contained sessions on how to use mobile WordPress on campus. Development and Advanced Development were for folks who create WordPress plug-ins and themes. The Strategy sessions were for businesses interested in figuring out why blogs are the core to any social media strategy.

I stuck with the How To segment. Though some of the things I already new or had taught myself, it was great to learn about new plug-ins, be reminded why I use a certain plug-in in the first place, and overall get a refresher on things like SEO. The crowd in these sessions was a mixed bag of social media experience. Some did not know what was SEO (Search Engine Optimization: How to get your stuff found on the web) and others chatted about Child Themes and .php files like it was the daily weather forecast.

All in all, there were some great takeaways to share if you are a WordPress user. One post I wrote was about Tips and Strategies to Promote your Content. The second post is about Top Tips for Blogging in WordPress. Like me, you may have that plug-in or already know the tip, but hopefully there are some that are new for you. Even if you are not a WordPress user, there may be some concepts to look into on your own Blogging platform.

Overall, here is the thing that I loved about WordCamp. (Let’s just say, I pay attention to the little details…)

The Coupon Goddess Scores Her Best Deal Yet

(Please note: This story has been posted with Melanie’s blessing. As many of you know, Melanie was involved in an accident earlier this week and is currently in the hospital. To learn more about what happened, head over to her blog to read, “So this one time, Melanie got hit by a car.”  Please keep Melanie in your thoughts and prayers as she begins to recover.)

The Coupon Goddess

Melanie Feehan, The Coupon Goddess

What happens when a coupon goddess meets a pioneer woman? Just ask Melanie Feehan.

This shopping-savvy mother of four has been sharing her money-saving exploits as “The Coupon Goddess” for more than two and a half years now, which makes Melanie a Boston blogging “veteran.” She’s popular too. “The Coupon Goddess” receives more than 75 thousand page views per month, and her newest blog, “Melanie in the Middle,” is rapidly gaining a following as well. But recently, Melanie scored the opportunity to meet a blogger who (currently) is even more well known than she is: “The Pioneer Woman,” Ree Drummond.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

The Pioneer Woman is somewhat of a blogging icon. Also a mother of four, Ree lives on a cattle ranch in the middle of Oklahoma and writes about life on the range, shares original ranch recipes, and throws in great photography, design, and homeschooling tips on the side. Oh, and she just published a children’s book. (So…she probably could have called herself Wonder Woman, except that name was already taken.) I must admit that I never paid much attention to “The Pioneer Woman” until I interviewed Melanie for this story. That’s when I scoped it out. It is pretty awesome. Now I understand why readers love it much.

Apparently Ree is so widely beloved that BlogHer and Bush’s Beans teamed up with her to offer a nationwide recipe contest. They wanted outstanding original entree recipes to pair with Bush’s Grilling Beans. The four winners would get to fly to The Pioneer Woman’s ranch to spend the weekend with her. And out of thousands of entries, guess who won. Boston’s own Coupon Goddess.

Melanie’s winning recipe, Grilled Coconut Milk Shrimp with Honey Lime Glaze,” was no fluke. Melanie says that she carefully considered the odds and set out to win when she entered the contest. “I sat down and I really did try. I researched what I was going to make & what ingredients would be the best together,” she says. “It’s actually a science how to put together a winning recipe. You have to know what’s hot and what people are looking for. I knew that lime is really hot right now, and any type of sweet and salty-savory is popular, so I knew that honey would be good along with cayenne. I just built it to a point where it was a winner, presented it, crossed my fingers – and viola!”

Grilled coconut milk shrimp with honey lime glaze

Thrilling as it was to have her recipe selected as one of the best, Melanie says she was even more excited to meet Ree Drummond in person. In her own account of the trip, Melanie writes, “I’ve been following The Pioneer Woman for a very long time…Without realizing it, she has mentored me as a blogger and is directly responsible for my improved photography skills.” One might think that getting the chance to actually meet a mentor might unravel idealized opinions of them…but Melanie says this was certainly not the case with The Pioneer Woman. “Honestly, she is exactly who she says she is,” she vouches. “She is a wildly talented woman who also happens to be business savvy. She’s a gracious hostess. She’s fun. And she’s extraordinarily quick witted. She is, no kidding, a brilliant woman.”

During her time in Oklahoma, Melanie was able to eat some of Ree’s famous recipes, cooked by The Pioneer Woman herself. (“Every single recipe of hers that I’ve tried has been no fail,” Melanie says.) The Coupon Goddess was also filmed making her own winning recipe for a future Bush’s Beans video. She got to have a make-up artist. And wear a cowboy hat. I’m sure everyone in Boston is most jealous about the cowboy hat.

Melanie says the experience of staying at The Pioneer Woman’s lodge was slightly surreal because she has seen it so many times in photos on the blog. “I remember when she was renovating her lodge a long time ago. I followed it and thought it was really fascinating because I love design,” recalls Melanie. “So when I was there, I felt like I was going onto a movie set. It was really neat to be experiencing an environment that I read about.”

This just may be Melanie’s best deal yet – a free trip, fabulous free food, and the chance to actually get to know a blogging mentor. In her home. The moral of the story? “To encourage you to put yourself out there with your talents because you never know what will happen,” Melanie says.

If you’d like to read Melanie’s account of the trip, see more pictures, and get the ingredients to the winning recipe, head over to her post on “The Coupon Goddess.”

Boston Parent Bloggers at BlogHer

Two of our Boston Parent Bloggers Compete on the Just Dance Stage

The 2010 BlogHer conference was hosted in NYC, making it an ideal spot for Boston Parent Bloggers to congregate. Whether traveling by car or train (or, in some cases, plane), the proximity made it more accessible for our New England-based friends. Rather than try to capture the spirit of the conference from so many voices, we’ve set up a Mr. Linky so bloggers can share their own posts.

Boston Parent Bloggers Unite!

Through my work at About.com and my personal blogs I am often invited to blogger and press events. Inevitably, if I am at all interested in or excited about the activities, they are located in New York or LA. This isn’t surprising, as both cities are considered hot spots for information, events and culture. The flaw is that I’m located just outside of Boston and have no budget for flying around to the major metropolis’ of the world. When I ask my contacts about visiting our area, they consistently respond, “Oh, I didn’t realize there were a lot of bloggers there.”

I am here to tell our PR friends, as well as any lonely parent bloggers in the Boston area, that we are here in strong numbers. In addition to the culture and history we enjoy in Beantown, and renowned high-tech and academic institutions, we have an extremely talented group of bloggers, podcasters and vloggers. We also have a highly respected social media scene, but that’s another story entirely.

So, I extend an invitation, first to other local bloggers and then to our friends in the PR industry, to check us out.