As we build our network of bloggers, which today stands at about seven hundred publishers of all shapes and sizes, we naturally have begun to see patterns and trends in how certain sites are run. One of the biggest differentiators, we've found, for a large blog that earns millions of pageviews lies in the philosophical approach. Big bloggers, the ones that have turned blogging into lucrative careers, run their sites like businesses.
What does that mean? A few things. For starters, it doesn't mean that their work is soulless nor that their minds are only on money (and money on their minds, I had to). Career bloggers still find joy in their work, but they've learned how to back into running a business too. In many cases, this wasn't part of their plans originally, so systems are put in place once their traffic reaches that hey this is a real thing pageview number.
And there's something to be said for "faking it 'til you make it." That is to say, if you don't consider yourself this "tier" of blogger, there are still some considerations that could get you to that level. Borrow their tactics to build a sustainable business from day one.
They Outsource & Build A Team
Career bloggers have a keen awareness of their pain points. And, like entrepreneurs or C-suite leaders, they know that their time equals money. Everyone has incredible talents that turn them into successes, but at the same time, we all get caught up doing tasks that we're less qualified to complete.
Some bloggers we work with have brought a remote VA onto their team to handle miscellaneous tasks, others have hired social media managers to keep their Pinterest game strong, and others have hired business managers to handle finances. Many have handed the management of their ads to experts like our partners at Mediavine.
The lesson here is, even if you can do something, is that the best use of your time? There are always those more qualified who are available for hire. And successful bloggers sacrifice their egos enough to let those tasks go for the better of their business.
They Know Their RPM
Ask any major publisher about their success ad they'll immediately jump to RPM. Content matters, of course. Voice matters. Your audience matters. But does any of this really matter to someone trying to make a living if all of these elements result in zero earnings? For anyone struggling to monetize, seeing returns on hard work is what keeps the habit sustainable.
A big blogger knows his or her RPM like the back of their hand and is always, always, trying to inch that number higher. What's an RPM (revenue per mille)? Basically that means the amount of money you're earning per 1,000 visitors to your site. Calculate it using the following formula:
(Revenue Earned / Pageviews) * 1000 = RPM
So, if someone earned $300 for 10,000 MUVS, their RPM is $30.
Include all of your revenue streams in that "revenue earned" number: ads, sponsored posts, affiliate earnings, Chicory earnings, etc.
They Invest In Their Company
It might feel scary to invest money into your business or blog when revenue rolling in is still minimal. But, as the saying goes, you need to spend money to make money. Running a business has its costs, from paying employees to advertising to purchasing new equipment. The theory is, of course, that if you can invest money into your business, the returns will outweigh the costs over time.
Begin by re-investing some of your earnings back into your site. Boost a Facebook post or a pin. This is a low-risk way to test out this premise. A next step might be hiring someone to help out with your social media management. You might even get to the point when you can travel, attend conferences, or host events for your brand. But first, boost that Facebook post and gather data on how that performs for your site. Adjust your targeting and experiment. Soon enough you'll find what works for you!
They Know their "Special Sauce"
Contrary to what many folks believe, there's not one way to build a blog or single path to follow. When we hop on calls with major bloggers to pitch Chicory, one of the questions we always ask is what's your special sauce. I'm consistently shocked by the variety of responses we receive.
Some people insist that luck got them this far. Others credit Facebook, Pinterest or Buzzfeed for boosting their traffic in early days. But we also receive surprising and, frankly, very unexpected responses.
For example, one blogger told us that not sharing personal details and using fewer photos has helped her to build a no-nonsense audience that is ready to consume recipes. Someone else shared their super duper niche site meant she could take over that space with almost zero competition. She'd strategically done that right when she saw a trend growing in popularity (think spiralizing or Filipino food).
Like any business or startup, product-market fit works wonders here. Similarly, building a product that addresses a common "problem" (as some might feel about a blog without lots of storytelling).
They Set a Schedule
Think about the difference between your blog and those other, more "typical" jobs you've had in former careers. You probably worked in an office, where you were expected to work from 9 to 5, but you could likely turn off your email alerts once you clocked out. Or perhaps you worked at a restaurant; you knew what your shifts were and you got scheduled breaks when you'd eat lunch or take care of personal errands. Vacation time and personal days were available to you with some advanced planning.
Professional bloggers follow the same rules. They have set work hours, schedule meetings, take time off, and set limits on time spend on specific tasks. The more you segment your time in these ways, the more productive you'll be. And the less you let blogging life seep into your personal life, the happier you'll be.
Even if you're still working another job while you work to make your blog your primary form of income, segment those after-hours blogging activities. Make sure you're being deliberate and optimizing your time whenever possible in order to be the most productive blogger (and business owner) possible!