Creating Profitable Mini Blogs

I’d like to welcome Tony Marriott to Digital Marketing Revealed. Tony has what sounds like an idyllic life, running his business from a beach in Greece. Tony tells us more.

Tell us How You Became an Internet Marketer?

I’ve been working full time on the internet for just over two years now. Before that, I worked as a service delivery manager for the Hewlett Packard managing team of around 200 people in the UK. I had a health scare back then but a minor operation and a couple of weeks rest and I was OK. It made me review my lifestyle and put a few things into perspective and I made a decision to leave the corporate world and work for myself.

Why the Internet as a Channel For Your Business?

The internet was and is a key factor in what I do. One of the criteria, when I left my job, was that I wanted to be able to live abroad (I was working in the UK), spend a lot more time with my wife and be able to run the business from anywhere so I would be able to travel and visit family whenever I wanted.

We actually moved to Greece which, like so many beautiful countries, does not have the best economic situation and along with language barriers and unfamiliar laws it makes building an off-line business very difficult.

The fact that I can trade in any country whilst sitting and any other country makes the internet an amazing medium. I could not do what I am doing without it.

There are some parts of the business that could be operated off-line, as the training. Real “classroom” type training still fetches a premium and can create a very good living even from a relatively small town. You need a certain density of population of course and people who have money to spend so this would only work in places like the US and the UK.

Do You Work Full-Time as an Internet Marketer?

Yes absolutely – more full time than I would like to really. Getting an online business up and running is just the same as an off-line business and that means many hours of hard work. The reality is that you are very unlikely to start an online business by working 2 hours a day. After 2 years I am now having one day a week off and I work at least 10 hours a day

That’s not as bad as it seems. In the summer (April – October) I take my lunch breaks on the beach and similarly early evening dinner is served on the beach (courtesy of my wife). It’s siesta time here in the afternoons but I work through that. Of course, it’s “have laptop will travel” which means I can keep tabs on, and maintain the business when we visit family or travel.

What are Your Main Areas of Business?

MY main income comes from minisite blogs, i.e. WordPress blogs with around 5-10 pages. I still build blogs regularly to keep adding to my portfolio.

The blogs should have a minimum of 5 posts to get your initial ranking. If the blog performs well it is worth creating more posts if there are suitable related keywords with enough search volume. If the blog performs less well or there are few good volume long-tail keywords then you’ll be better off building a new blog. These blogs are not designed to become authority sites and so the best return on my time is generally to build more sites rather than bigger ones.

About a year ago I started training students on how to build these minisite blogs and it was so popular that I have since created a number of “how-to” and “training” products.

Part of my job at HP had always been designing work-flow processes and training people how to do the jobs and those skills made it relatively easy to create training materials that you could really learn from.

Currently, I offer full support for all products and students via a helpdesk. This is a huge overhead for me but I really don’t want to outsource this part of the business as it enables me to really connect with my customers and students.

Going forward I see my business still firmly based on making money with blogs and websites selling products or advertising. As I develop new , better, faster, easier techniques or methods then I will develop training packages around them.

I don’t want to move to the “Guru” model of mass launches and upsells of questionable products that seem to be getting a bad name recently but I suspect that’s what happens when you “lose” touch with your customers. Of course, I want to make enough money for me to keep me in this nice lifestyle but I also want to keep my integrity and I want to sleep soundly at night.

Can You Explain the Difference Between a Blog and a Conventional Website?

A conventional website is simply one with pages and content designed to fulfill a specific purpose. i.e. sell a product, deliver news items, gather memberships or show off pictures of your new baby. Traditionally written in a programming language called HTML. Although many new tools and applications are now available for you to create websites they are fundamentally static information sites.

Blogs are really dynamic sites. They have fixed content of course but new content is generally added regularly in such a way as the home page will change regularly. They are also interactive. Site visitors can leave their own comments on the blog content and converse with the blog owners.

The popularity of blogs used as online diaries helped to create specialist platforms to make these blogs and WordPress has emerged out as the market leader.

Does Google Have a Preference Between Blogs and Websites?

The continual “fresh” content and visitor interaction were quickly seen by Google a good thing. Exactly what Google wants from web sites, Up to date information, useful information and information that visitors can influence.

Google has modified its “algorithm” to give a boost to sites built with platforms like WordPress. Many marketers like myself have moved to create sites with WordPress and other blog platforms because of the extra “ranking power” they offer.

As soon as you understand how Google looks at and analyses websites it’s not difficult to get any blog or in fact any site, indexed in Google within a few hours. To get good rankings, and by that I mean appear near the top of the search results quickly, it is crucial to choose good domain names and keywords. With low competition keywords, you can rank on the first couple of pages in the Google search results within a couple of days.

Are There Special Steps Required to Make a Blog Rank Well in Google?

Of course, there is a lot more to raking your blog than just picking good keywords. What you need to do will depend on your long term strategies. In short, though you have two areas that need your attention. Firstly the on-page SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which in most part is taken care of by your keyword selection, the WordPress application, and few clever plugins.

Finally, you need to add your off-page optimization which in practice is your backlinking strategy.

Can Blogs Generate Revenue?

Blogs are great ways to generate revenue and the favoritism that Google currently shows them makes them an ideal vehicle for selling advertising or products. These can be your own product, affiliate products, Google Adsense (my current favorite) or any other advertising.

This a recent change at Google that seems to have hit a lot of affiliate sites but personally I think it is mainly due to the way the sites have been structured rather than the fact that they sell affiliate products. You need to ensure your blogs add value for the visitors and selling them an affiliate product should not be seen as the main objective of the site.

How do You Choose Your Subject for the Blogs that You Build?

Actually I let them choose me! I have a specific method of keyword research that does not focus on products or niches but more on “the numbers”. My process tends to uncover untapped and less competitive niches. I can’t go into specifics as it is the subject of a training program I am developing.

You have launched a product called 20 Minute Blogs.

One of the big problems with building blogs is the time it takes. Even with applications like WordPress you still need to do a lot of configuration and adding content etc and this can be very time-consuming. As the name suggests my latest product is a “template” and process to build blogs much faster than by conventional methods.

20 Minute Blogs comes with three core elements. It is an actual template that includes a premium WordPress theme, preconfigured plugins and some other bits that make it all work. The PDF tutorial covers everything from guidance on choosing keywords and domains, through installing your blog, getting content and some additional tutorials on changing the aesthetics of your blog and adding your blog to the network. The third element of the product is a set of 14 videos that go into more detail about each part of the process.

What Kind of Research did You do to Establish a Business Need for 20 Minute Blogs?

The original idea of creating the template was something I’d had in mind for some time but a number of other factors needed to be in place before it would work. One of those was the template theme or style. There would be little point in putting out dozens of blogs that didn’t make any money because the design was wrong.

I had already been teaching students how to build blogs and I had a fairly large network of my own and I was able to see what blogs performed better than others and from that, I designed a theme that was liked by Google and encouraged good “click-through” rates from visitors.

The blog network that I use to generate the backlinks actually came to me while I was sleeping (believe it or not) whether I was dreaming or just suffering from an over-active mind that night I’m not sure but it really did just “pop into my head”.

Putting the two together was a “no brainer” and when I built a few blogs and used only the links from the network (which was pretty small at that time) I found I was getting page 1 and page 2 rankings within a few days.

What does 20 Minute Blogs do?

The 20 Minute Blogs product is a template, a specific process and the tutorial instructions to complete the build. The initial build includes adding one post and you then need to add another 4 posts to the blog over the next week.

One of the most boring jobs (for most people) online is building backlinks to your sites so I have included automatic inclusion into a blog network to create autopilot backlinks. I developed this initially for my own use and then made it available to everyone when I saw just how much easier it made the whole process of putting up a blog.

Backlink Networks is actually a separate product but I have included free membership for any blog built with the 20 Minute Blogs template. Once your blog is indexed in Google you can add it to the backlink network. If you choose low competition keywords that may be all that is needed to get your site onto page 1. If not then a few more quality backlinks will normally do the job.

Content creation can be a real challenge for some people, either they just find the writing difficult (or boring, I know I do) or may not have a good understanding of the blog subjects, or maybe not even the time. In the 20 Minute Blogs training I have identified a service where you can get human written articles for under $1 so outsourcing the writing is both simple and financially viable.

Are You Concerned that the Ease that 20 Minute Blogs can Create a Blog Could Result in a Flood of Spam Blogs?

These are mini-sites with only a few posts so yes, some people may be tempted to not post low-quality content. This will be the quickest way for your blog to fail, especially with the latest Google changes, so I think the system will be self-regulating.

Each blog registering with the network is human vetted before being accepted so there will always be someone checking the blogs.

Can You Tell me a Little Thing About How You Created 20 Minute Blogs?

When you’re creating products you do need a few basic tools. I am a great believer in using open source applications when I can but not if that means producing a lower quality content. For document production, I use Open office. It has a similar set of office applications such as Microsoft Word so a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation creator. For graphic editing, I use another open-source program called Gimp, an alternative to Photoshop. I have never found a great open source video application so I have invested in Camtasia which produces excellent quality videos. My other extravagance is Xsitepro for creating my sales websites.

When I produce a tutorial I actually video myself going through each task. I actually do what I am teaching. I don’t just offer theoretical ideas. So if I’m building a blog you will see me build the blog and it will be left for everyone to see how it performs. I actually start with the videos as the primary product and then create PDFs based on the videos

Much of what I create is based on the things I need when I am working. I also research a little to see what other solutions are available and if anyone is talking about the same problems on forums.

What are Your Main Methods to Market 20 Minute Blogs?

My very first product was a free tutorial that I gave away as a free tutorial on a Warrior Forum WSO and to date has had 11,800 downloads. I learned a lot from that but was lucky enough to get 1 on 1 mentoring from Ben Schaffer. Under Ben’s watchful eye I created my flagship training product “Easy Cash By Numbers”. This was my first paid product and was an overnight success and, as it teaches the foundation for all internet marketing, it is still very successful today.

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