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Meet James McAllister of Starlight-Baby.com

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Many people will start a blog with the goal of making money online or creating a resource for others to learn from. For others, blogging is about having a platform to share personal stories, life events and tragic events that need discussion.

In this week’s latest edition of Meet the Bloggers, we had the opportunity to connect with James McAllister, who has been blogging for quite a while now. With an early start in the world of online marketing, site creation and blogging, James has also created a powerful resource at Starlight Baby. Be sure to read through his story below and see how blogging continues to change the world through content creation and sharing life lessons.

1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?

James McAllister

I feel fortunate to have grown up with the internet, because it allowed me to get my start into the world of business early. I was only 14 when my eyes were opened to the possibility of making money online, after running into a YouTube video talking about Google Adsense.

That same weekend I begged my grandmother for the $20 I needed to buy web hosting a domain name, and started my first blog. It didn’t end up doing too well, but one project led to another and eventually things came together.

Of course, back then we didn’t have many resources like BloggingTips.com to turn to. A lot of it was just trial and error – and if I’m honest, mostly error.

2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?

Today I run a company selling products for babies and toddlers. This is a completely different focus than blogs I’ve ran in the past, which have always been around tech or business subjects.

I learned quite quickly after finding success that you have to do work that aligns with your values. Eventually the money doesn’t matter as much as it used to, and doesn’t act as the same powerful motivator it does when you’re starting out. I feel that you need a reason that’s bigger than yourself if you intend to go beyond a certain level.

I started Starlight Baby after tragically losing a very close family member. The loss ended up tearing my family apart, and I would’ve traded everything I had to have fixed it. Of course, I still would, but I do not have that option. However, this event shifted my values, and my work had to shift with it to match them.

Having felt that much pain, I would do anything to prevent another person from going through it. We can’t magically fix all the world’s problems, but we can all make small differences. A lot of our profit goes to children’s charities and we are constantly coming out with more free tools and resources for parents to use. It’s something I feel really great about.

3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?

Currently, our sole method of monetization is done by funneling our blog traffic to our store, where we sell an assortment of physical products. The increased brand awareness that our blog brings also leads to increased sales on third-party marketplaces such as Amazon, and encourages more retailers to carry our products in their stores.

We’re also currently working on a pregnancy course, with our goal to make the need for most pregnancy books obsolete. While most of what we offer is free, paid courses, services and tools are going to be a big part of our future as well.

4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?

Running a blog itself does not inherently mean that you are running a business. The same basic business principles that have been in place for thousands of years still apply. You need to be working in a market with demand. You need to be able to come up with a clear, well-defined marketing strategy to bring people to your site, and you must have a way to monetize that traffic that is scalable. You can be the world’s most passionate person on something, but if you’re operating with a failing formula then you’ll ultimately come away with nothing but a lesson.

5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?

If I’m honest, there aren’t a whole lot of blogs that I read regularly anymore. I have a wide assortment that I look over in Feedly, and also frequently visit sites like GrowthHackers.com and Inbound.org which list articles from many different sites side-by-side. When I see an article that looks interesting or valuable to me, chances are I’ll read over it. Although I used to follow certain blogs religiously, I now look over them on an article-by-article basis.

6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?

  1. SEMRush. We use it not only to track how our website is doing in search but to target optimal keywords in new content as well. The number of features and tools SEMRush contains is well worth the monthly fee.
  2. Hootsuite. Hands-down the best social media management tool I’ve ever used, especially for managing lots of different accounts. Our VA schedules the content well in advance and I’m able to look over and make changes if I feel something doesn’t quite fit right with our social strategy.
  3. GetResponse. For us, email marketing is more powerful than anything else for converting information-seekers into buyers. A large focus of our blog is to get people onto our email list.

7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?

Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself, and re-invest everything you make to scale quickly. Buy tools. Enroll in courses. Read books. If you can learn even one thing that you can utilize for your business, the time and money spent will be well worth it in the long run. Unlike most other investments, knowledge never goes down in value and it can never be taken away from you.

Once you have money coming in regularly, develop systems and reinvest that money to grow your profits exponentially.

8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?

Force yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable.

I was afraid to make my blog known when I first started, because I was only 14 and thought that nobody would take me seriously.

I was afraid to reach out to other bloggers because I didn’t carry as much authority as they did, despite knowing that networking is the quickest way to skyrocket your own site’s traffic.

I was afraid to hire because I was afraid of giving up control, and my ego told me that I could manage it all on my own.

Deep down inside, you know that there are things that simply need to be done. I’ve learned over and over again that it’s better to just tackle them right away, without hesitation. Fear is a sign that you care about the outcome, so you may as well do what you know to be right – even if it means pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?

With web hosting and a domain costing about $20, I’d spend the other $80 on books. There is almost no investment that provides the same ROI as a good book does.

10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?

The easiest way would be to email me directly at james[at]starlight-baby.com. Parenting bloggers and other parents will also be able to reach me through our forum. Outside of our site, I’m fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, although I do not post there as much as I used to.

Regardless of how you’d like to get in touch with me, I really look forward to speaking with you. I always love to chat, even if it’s not something business or parenting related, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

Thanks again James 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.

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Zac Johnson is a online marketer with 15 years of experience and also a blogger at ZacJohnson.com, as well as the founder of BloggingTips.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Meet the Bloggers

Meet Karen D’Avino of KarenDavino.com

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Blogging is one of the most exciting ways to create content on the internet and engage with others around the world at the same time. In addition to creating your own content and building your own little spot on the internet, blogging can be quite a resourceful tool for educators, teachers, schools, and even principles or superintendents. As always, when profiling new bloggers and experts in our Meet the Bloggers series, we are looking to cater to all niche markets and areas of the internet.

With all of this in mind, today we have an exciting guest — Karen D’Avino, who is the superintendent of schools and has taken her expertise and talent for this industry to the internet while helping to provide others with the necessary resources and tools to further improve their schools as well.

1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?

My name is Karen D’Avino. I am an educator with over twenty years of experience in the New Jersey public schools. I most recently served as Superintendent of Schools in the Barnegat Township School District. As an educator always looking to remain abreast of current practices and striving for academic excellence for students and staff, I became engaged with educators online. I was selected to become part of the Compelled Tribe based on my contributions to education.

2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?

The focus of my blog is on educational improvement. My administrative career has been dedicated to the improvement of schools, education, and both student and teacher performance. The subjects on my blog range from dealing with adversity to behavior management skills.

3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?

While many other websites and blogs like to post advertisements on their site, I’m simply trying to create a platform where I can provide the best resources and tools possible. Through my personal blog at KarenDavino.com, you will find that my content is dedicated to in district support where parties interested can contact me for consulting work.

4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?

I began using the blogging portion of WordPress before I created my own webpage. My page is also on Word Press but I wish I knew more about building web pages prior to blogging. I also know more about SEO’s and how online searches work. I wish I knew more about that before I began blogging.

5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?

http://www.thecompellededucator.com/
https://allysonapsey.com/
https://fouroclockfaculty.com/

6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?

Most times I use blogging to provide educational support for a variety of challenges that may occur in schools. Through blogging, I have been able to address many topics of concern for teachers but mostly for administrators. I have addressed various funding challenges that school administrators might find in the day to day operations of schools. I have blogged about teaching and learning strategies to implement in the classroom and I have blogged about working with challenging students.

7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?

Blogging is something I just kind of fell into, but also something that has been quite beneficial and amazing in the process. My best advice for anyone looking to start a blog of their own, is to focus on their passion and see how they can provide value to others. Through my blog I have been able to share some great stories, my expertise, and also help others who are in the same educational environment as I am.

8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?

Creating content can be a challenge if you do not focus on a few topics. The internet has lots of information and deciding what your niche is will be important to gain and retain constant readers. I would also recommend that anyone in the education space focus some time on connecting with others in education and teacher forums or social groups online. With so many teachers already online, there are some amazing resources available when you put in the time and effort to find and connect with others.

9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?

I would research the content areas in education where there is a need for information and focus my energies on creating a blog, supportive website, and possible member services. Anyone can get started with a blog of their own, even if they are a teacher or working with a small budget. If you have the time and money, I would invest in a domain, hosting, and maybe a custom logo design or WordPress them to stand out from the crowd.

10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?

My blog can be found at http://karendavino.com/
You can also see one of my latest radio interviews here.
Also feel free to follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks again Karen D’Avino 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.

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Meet Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch.com and Docsketch.com

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Many entrepreneurs have dipped their toes into blogging but not many have gone far. A lot of factors may have played in failure. Perhaps the lack of courage, determination, persistence? There are also instances wherein a venture is progressing but suddenly plateaus in growth. This is often the result of complacency. Successful business owners can attest that facing challenges head-on have led them to great accomplishments and the total lack thereof can do more harm than good.

For Ruben Gamez, he didn’t even have to wait for the challenge to come. He got into blogging by getting out of his comfort zone and challenging himself. Today, he continues to excel as an entrepreneur by constantly finding ways on how to improve his tactic. Learn more about Ruben in this week’s episode of Meet the Bloggers.

1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?

Ruben Gamez

I started blogging as a marketing experiment and to prove to myself that I would be able to sell my first product. At the time I was working a full time job and had an idea for a software product, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to bring in enough traffic to make the idea viable.

By this point I had read enough about marketing to realize that blogging was a great way to bring in qualified traffic. I quickly did some keyword research and found a topic that I could write on, and published a post (one week later).

The goal was to see if I could actually bring in traffic, and how long it would take for that traffic to start coming in. After two weeks I started getting traffic to that post (through Google)! I was hooked on content marketing at that point.

2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?

Initially we started with a very narrow focus of writing about proposals for designers. That’s because at the time, our product was very niche and that was our target audience.

For example, one of the better performing posts we had at the time, was literally titled “How to Write a Web Design Proposal,” which still performs well for us. As you can imagine, there’s only so much of that type of content you can write for a specific niche.

I quickly realized that it was too narrow and eventually expanded to blogging about helping freelancers, agencies, and consultants land more clients.

We went in this direction after talking to enough customers and seeing what interests they had, and what type of content they liked.

3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?

We have an online software product called Docsketch. So the main way that we monetize our blog is by converting a portion of readers into customers.

It tends to be a longer process because instead of pushing visitors directly into a trial of our product, we work to get them into a drip campaign. From there we can better educate them and build trust. Eventually, some people give Docsketch a try and become customers.

4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?

Great question. I wish I knew enough to focus on the right type of content, and not pick topics by guessing what would appeal to our audience. Nowadays, we’re a lot better about picking our topics.

For example, one approach, is to start by focusing on a larger category and growing that through individual pieces of content. We’re actually doing that right now, with a “contract templates” section on our site: https://www.docsketch.com/contract-templates/

Based on researching what our target customer is looking for, we are expanding that page with individual pieces of content that can also bring in traffic (like a specific type of contract template). This helps in that you can slowly build authority in a very large category, and the individual contract templates will inherit that authority.

Another approach we take is using tools like Hotjar to run microsurveys so we can ask visitors that aren’t on our email list, what we should write about. We even do phone interviews with some of these visitors (and offer them an Amazon gift card for 15 minutes of their time).

5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?

Well, I’ll give two blogs because I’m having a tough time thinking of three.

My current favorites:

  1. The Sumo.com blog which focuses on growth stories (so good):
  2. The James Clear blog which focuses on personal improvement through fitness, psychology, and more.

6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?

  1. Hotjar for microsurveys, visitor recordings, etc
  2. Sumo.com for email collection of all types
  3. Moz for traffic, keywords, and more

7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?

Look at the top five blogs that you love to read, and deconstruct them. Work backwards. Why do you like them so much?

Don’t look at the specifics of how they’re doing things (images, content length, etc.), instead look at how their positioning hooks you, or how their topic choice gets you coming back. Look at the high level things that make a big difference.

From there, spend some time brainstorming how you can use some of what you’ve learned on your own blog. Then, spend lots of time researching, writing, and promoting 🙂

8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?

I think the best advice I’ve heard (and that I still try to internalize) came from Derek Halpern. Spend 20% of your time writing, and 80% promoting. That doesn’t mean write for 30 minutes and promote a weak piece of content. That means, that whatever time it takes to write a very high quality piece of content, spend 4x that long promoting it.

One interesting side effect is that you start looking at whether the topics you’re writing about are worth that type of promotion time.

9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?

I’d use part of it on Sumo.com tool to help me collect leads, the rest on hosting. After that, it’s really just my time on research, writing, and promoting.

The most valuable things that need to be done on a blog don’t cost money. They do involve you investing some time doing them though.

10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?

My personal twitter and our product.

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Blogger

Meet Daniel Cowen-Rivers of TravelWeekli.com

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Blogging can lead you to many opportunities. All established bloggers now have been through the phase of being a new comers. They have experimented one way or another along the process. Trying different things out does help in determining your own style and strategy.

We’ve interviewed bloggers covering various niches in Meet the Bloggers. For this episode, we’d like to introduce Daniel Cowen-Rivers. He’s a budding travel blogger. Read on to know more about his journey across the globe and a

1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?

Daniel Cowen-Rivers

I am a budding travel blogger who travels the world and shares my experiences and travel expertise via social media and through my blog. I got into blogging as I wanted to share my traveling tips and photos with others to make them travel more before global warming destroys the world.

2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?

I chose traveling to share my love of seeing the world and different country’s way of living. I also wanted more people to find out about the world we live in.

3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?

AdSense. I have a few paid ads but not that many as I am still new to the game. I’ve started blogging since February of 2017.

4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?

I did not know about DA and SEO that I know now is very important in order to get sponsored post.

5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?

The blogs are:

  1. Backpack With Me
  2. Bradley Bow
  3. Hand Luggage Only

6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?

The three services that I recommended using to help your blog are:

  1. Yoast  A blog in called SEO by Yoast. This makes optimizing my blog post easier to rank higher on Google search.
  2. OneNote – I’m constantly making notes for future articles. As I always have random moments where I’m going by my day and I just randomly have an idea for a blog article. I always carry my phone to write the note in OneNote.
  3. MailMunch is a plugin for WordPress that comes with email subscription templates that you can place in certain parts of your blog and I made mine as a popup.

7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?

Pick a niche category that you want your blog to be about. As well as this, one of the most important advice I have is one that you need to know when starting out, is how to improve your SEO and DA.

8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?

Just keep blogging! After a few months, I only got a few readers per day and I’ve thought to quit then. However, I’ve read that it takes people years to get enough readers to be a full time blogger. Just keep blogging and don’t stop.

9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?

I would use the money to gain more Facebook likes on my Facebook page that in turn will convert readers for my blog. This will be done by advertising the page and blog on Facebook.

10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?

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