Rae Hoffman is a veteran affiliate marketer who has made quite the name for herself over the past several years. In addition to having her own blog (“SugarRae”) that she started in 2006, Rae was also one of the keynote speakers are Affiliate Summit. In addition to everything else going on with her business, she has quite an amazing personal story as well. Her story and interview below is a must read and I’m extremely excited to have her name listed among the others in the “Meet the Bloggers” interview series.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
I’ve been running websites since 1998. I started in the non profit sector (I was running a support group for parents and families of pediatric stroke survivors that I started after my oldest son suffered a massive bilateral stroke in 1997 when he was two weeks old). In 2001 I found affiliate marketing and have been doing that as my full time career ever since. In 2012 I co-founded PushFire, which is an agency that offers SEO and PPC services for clients, and serve as its CEO.
On the personal side, I’m a mom of four and have been married to an awesome guy since 2010. My oldest son was severely multiply handicapped as a result of his stroke and is the reason I even have this career. He passed away a year ago from conditions that were a result of his initial stroke. He was 15.
In 2005 registered Sugarrae.com.
I am so thankful every day that I had the honor and
In 2005 registered Sugarrae.com. I went by a different screen name circa 2005 and registered the domain when I’d decided on what to I was going change my user name to LOL. I launched the blog on it early in 2006.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
At this point, I own a lot of blogs. But I’m going to assume for the purpose of this interview that we’re focusing on the Sugarrae blog LOL as it’s the one most heavily associated with me as an individual. Sugarrae’s primary focus is making money with affiliate marketing and SEO, which are my two biggest strengths as a marketer.
I chose that niche because I was hoping to be able to give back to the industry. Had it not been for those folks sharing via forums, etc when I got started, I might not be where I am today. I wanted to “pay it forward” so to speak (though I’m in no way trying to say I don’t intend to make money with it).
I was a waitress before I got started in this industry. I had (and still have) nothing but a GED. I had no money when I started. If I could do this (make money online), then anyone can if they decide to do it and are willing to do what it takes to earn their success.
When I started in affiliate, there were so many sites telling you that you could make insane money with no work – AKA, bullshit – on the web. I wanted to be a voice saying “you won’t get rich quick, but there’s money to be made if you’re willing to work hard for it”.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
On Sugarrae, my primary monetization method is affiliate via teaching people how to do things or solve problems (and sometimes those solutions happen to use paid tools). Most of the requests I get for paid advertising are ones I deny because they’re advertising the same “get rich quick” schemes that I mentioned above. I’ve tried AdSense on Sugarrae, but it ends up with those same types of advertisers, so I pulled it down. For years people have been asking me to write eBooks or short info products. I don’t rule out that those requests may eventually be fulfilled.
But, as I mentioned, I have multiple other blogs in different niches. Those blogs utilize AdSense, paid ads, info products and affiliate as monetization methods. Whether they only use one or all of those methods depends heavily on the niche they’re in.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
So many things. LOL. But number one on that list would be I wish I had started collecting email addresses way, way earlier than I did. I never launch a new blog now without having an email list signup form on it from day one. Email is a powerful, powerful tool. And as search traffic gets harder to get and even harder to maintain, building an email list is an extremely defensible form of traffic.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
I actually have never used a feed reader in my life. #truestory
There really aren’t any blogs I hit up daily to see their new posts. Twitter sort of acts as my “the good sh*t will get shared” beacon. Anything written by Aaron Wall or Peter Davanzo is usually money (both are from SEO Book). If you’re into SEO, Pete Meyers (AKA Dr. Pete) writes some interesting stuff over at Moz. And I do keep up with Search Engine Land fairly regularly to keep up with industry news.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
LOL, with how much I recommend SEMRush on my blog, you’d think I worked for them. They’re vital to me as a blogger for various reasons. I’m also a fan of the Genesis theme. And I love the Display Widgets plugin (free) for targeting affiliate advertisements.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
First and foremost though would be that blogging to make money is not a free opportunity. It’s a cheap one, but to be professional about it, you’ll need a domain, hosting, a logo and a design (at this point, I always recommend using premium themes – cheap, well designed templates, customizable). You can all of the above for less than $200. Show me another business that you can start for $200.
Like I said, I didn’t have any cash when I entered this industry. I sold some things I didn’t need anymore around my house and ate nothing but hot dogs and macaroni cheese for three weeks to afford my first Yahoo listing way back in the “pre-Google” day (which was $300).
It’s about your priorities. I always think, “if your blog isn’t worth spending a small amount of cash or making a few sacrifices to launch as a real business, why would it be worth following for a reader?”. I’m not saying you can’t do it with zero cash. I’m just saying spending a few hundred up front can make the road easier.
Other things would include… The bigger your audience gets, the more haters you’ll have. Never feed the trolls. IF you’re providing killer, valuable content in any niche, don’t be afraid to monetize it. Taking the time to optimize your blog for the engines is vital. Don’t use your blog as a pulpit. Websites are like speeches, blogs are like conversations – so if someone takes the time to comment on your post, take the time to thank them for it – the more connected the reader feels to you, the more they read, the more they trust you, the more they help promote you.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
That if you want more traffic, you need to blog consistently. I’m horrible about that with the Sugarrae blog. It’s not one of my primary blogs (as far as my online income goes) so it has at (multiple) times gone months without a post. I’ve been blogging on that domain for seven years now and there’s less than 300 posts on it. I still get a steady stream of traffic, even during those down times. But when I go on a blogging rampage (and post regular content) my traffic skyrockets.
For instance, after letting my blog lay dormant from July 2013 through mid October 2013, I started posting a lot more regularly since then. Between October 15th and November 21st, I posted 9 posts. I did nothing else new or intent focused in regards to driving Sugarrae more traffic, except posting regular during that time period. And my traffic significantly increased.
My overall visits to the site versus the prior period went up 536% while page views went up 439%. Site referrals to the site versus the prior period went up by 360% and search referrals went up by 96%.
Consistent blogging combined with quality content will keep traffic on the rise.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
Domain, hosting, Genesis. If I already had genesis, then it would be Domain, hosting, logo.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
You can keep up with what I write over at Sugarrae.com. On Twitter, you’ll find that I tweet too much, swear like a sailor and on Sunday, I unapologetically rage about football for the three hours when the Bucs play. My Facebook page is where I try to post a lot of inspiration for aspiring bloggers and entrepreneurs. My Google+ is a mash of personal and business usage, LOL.
And of course, the best way to stay up to date on all the information I provide – as well as access some things I don’t post publicly – is to sign up for my newsletter.
Thanks again Rae Hoffman 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.