No matter your profession or position, blogging can be a huge benefit to your personal brand or profession. Selena Narayanasamy is Director of Strategy Development for FoundationDigital.com, but uses her personal blog at SelenaVidya.com for posts on the industry, marketing topics and her addiction to coffee, while also increasing her personal brand and reach. This is something that all professionals should be focusing on. Learn how Selena is making the most out of her personal blog and social media through our Meet the Bloggers interview below.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
About me… well, I’ve been working in the space for over 5 years now, originally starting out doing consulting that was focused more on copywriting, branding and social. From there, I moved into experimenting with and learning search marketing when I started a gig at a small boutique agency. I had the opportunity to be hands on with everything. I wore a ton of hats, focusing mainly on link building, on-site optimization and social media outreach. Then over time, I became fully focused on all things organic search, slanting heavily towards technical SEO and strategy. Now I’ve moved into using SEO as a base, but really expanding into other areas of marketing to hit different channels in a more integrated way, including heavy experimentation with paid social for personal properties.
As far as how I got into blogging; writing has always been a passion of mine. I was writing stories in notebooks from the time I learned how to use a pencil, created newsletters for my Tae Kwon Do team… you name it, I was writing it. So naturally, I took to the online world when this opportunity was available through the evolution of things like Live Journal and Open Diary. Once I got sick of just writing about myself all the time on journal-type websites, I decided to start blogging in a way that could get people’s gears moving and spark some thoughts- particular around science (a huge passion of mine) and marketing, with the occasional rant about politics or other things.
From then on, I’ve experimented with and launched a ton of various websites. I’ve been too busy as of late to keep up with the content on them outside of my own personal site, but blogging is something I’ve always felt was second nature to me. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to put things out into the world, and not knowing what random person might find interest in it.
Outside of that, I’m a huge movie junkie, a car fanatic, and horse lover who drinks LOTS of coffee.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
My current blog (which is rather new) is focused more so on motivation, inspiration and productivity with some marketing/SEO sprinkled in there. One of my other darlings is focused on interior decorating and home decor. The others aren’t really worth diving into at this point, but all of them have stemmed from a personal interest and potential for profit.
For my core blog (selenavidya.com) I chose to focus on that because 1) I have a tendency to write marketing related content on third party publications and haven’t spent time nourishing my own how I should be 2) There are so many search marketing blogs out there right now that it didn’t make sense for myself to try and weasel into that niche unless I actually had the time to devote to building it out 3) The business and agency world has had such a major shift in the past few years towards people becoming more focused on the idea of a “solopreneur”, consultant, or freelance/contract work. A lot of people have doubts about that sort of thing, so sharing my thoughts on those topics has encouraged people to email me and reach out to discuss fears or questions they might have. 4) I just enjoy it.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
For some of my other blogs outside of Selenavidya.com, I’ve been monetizing via adsense and working with affiliate programs (sidebar/banner and in text links). In the past I’ve sold private advertising as well, but I’m extremely picky about this.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
Oh geez. There are so many lessons…
1) The first one would be focus on quality and not quantity, but still be consistent. Back in the day, when I had a different personal blog, I was focused more on writing a lot, but not necessarily ones that were as important, insightful, or useful. I wrote just because I enjoyed writing and loved having something published on my site. Now, I’m not saying to let your blog stay quiet for week or months on end, I’m just saying there shouldn’t be a mad rush to publish something everyday. Create a schedule you’re OK with sticking to, and do it.
2) The second would be don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If you plan on putting out a weekly newsletter, do it. If you can’t, then don’t say it. If you plan on creating a follow up post to a previous post, don’t let it fall into the abyss. I was guilty of this in the beginning because I grossly underestimated how much time I would have to dedicate when I was just starting out.
3) The third would be to start collecting email addresses and having a very prominent contact form where people can get a hold of you from the beginning. On my older blogs, many years ago, I didn’t really think people would want to sign up for any kind of email subscription, and I also thought it would put added pressure on me because they would sign up expecting something. Well guess what, email spam is ridiculous (especially on Cyber Monday. Don’t get me started) so your audience isn’t probably going to love you a little bit more if you’re not sending emails just because you feel like they want it. Create a schedule, and stick to it, even if it’s sending out something once monthly.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
To be honest, I don’t visit the same blogs everyday. I have a tendency to save interesting posts to something like “Pocket” and spend time at night going through posts that I’ve saved. The sources might vary, but I generally catch them from my social streams, or through my Pulse app (which is setup with 20+ blogs).
The following three don’t post as frequently, so I don’t visit them daily. When they do post, it’s awesome and well worth it:
- SEO by the Sea (Patents/Technical SEO)
- Blind Five Year Old (Authorship/Technical/
- Sugarrae (Affiliate Marketing/SEO)
Ok, I’m done now… I swear.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
I’m actually pretty simple when it comes to my own blogging, probably because I use so many tools on the client side that I get burned out when I’m working on my own properties. Here’s a few (I tried to limit to three…)
I use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin on all of my sites. It really gives you the ability to control everything granularly, from custom social stuff like preferred images to display when being shared, preferred title & description, control over indexing of tags/categories, and tons more.
The majority of my websites are on the Genesis framework because of the theme simplicity and the customization options. I was using Pagelines a looong time ago, but there were too many irrelevant things I didn’t need.
I also use SEMrush a lot because you can look at competitive data and research keywords in a number of different ways. There’s a free and paid version.
This might seem like common sense but please, please, please use Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Even though GA is slowly continuing to lose its keyword data, the combination of the two can help you glean some great information about your top performing content, queries, CTRs etc.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
1) Don’t give up or get discouraged. Seriously. Sometimes it can take months to gain any kind of minimal traction… and the saying about “The first few months, only your significant other, friends and mom will be reading your blog” is generally true. Create a schedule, plan out your content ideas ahead of time with an editorial calendar, stick to it, and then be sure to share it as if you have an audience (even if you don’t…yet).
2) Presentation can be everything. Spend the time to pick up a nice theme, get a logo created to help solidify your “brand” and make sure everything is aesthetically pleasing. If you put two sites together with relatively similar content, except one is pretty horrendous looking and hard to find anything, and one is designed well, clean and compelling, the latter will probably catch your eye and be what makes them choose you over someone else.
3) Track everything. Really spend time mining your posts and seeing what’s performing, even if there’s nothing at first. Understand the “why” so you can really learn what’s engaging your audience and create more content around that in the future.
4) This sounds like stupid “duh” advice and can actually be applied to ones who have been in the game for a while, but if you have someone reach out to you when you’re just starting, saying they really love your stuff and asking for a link, just don’t do it. It’s easy to feel flattered, but don’t. Especially if you have no clue who they are and don’t care about the product or story. Plain and simple. Don’t give up the sanctity of your blog unless it’s for something you really believe in, no matter how flattering their email is.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
Try not to care about what anybody thinks and just keep going. When you first start blogging, you’re probably going to have some kind of writer’s paralysis because you’re afraid to start putting your thoughts out there into the world; especially if you’re taking a specific side or supporting specific products, strategies, techniques, people, businesses, you name it.
Remember, they’re your thoughts, and your goal is to foster an audience that appreciates those thoughts without getting irritated by naysayers or negative nancys.
The only time you should care about what anybody else thinks, is if you’ve built up a very loyal audience who trusts you. THEN you should think about them, and how to provide the best value to them. But until then, don’t let the paralysis hold you back.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
I would definitely pick up a brand-esque domain, Genesis, a theme with some slight design mods, and spend the rest on whatever else I need on the branding side. I don’t know why, but I’m really a crazy person when it comes to logos and domain names. Honest to god.
But if you brand it right from the beginning, it makes it much easier to become an established blog that sticks out in people’s minds over time.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
Blog: The main one to get in touch with me is through my contact form.
Facebook: I occasionally share stuff on my blog’s FB page– when I have a new post go live, when I’ve contributed to another site, or just when I find interesting things related to business and marketing. I don’t keep up with that too much, but you can feel free to like that page.
I’m also on Google+
Thanks again Selena Narayanasamy for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.