Mike: Since my focus is domain names, lets start there. ProBlogger is an excellent name for a Professional Blogging site. Were you the first to register the name or was it acquired on the aftermarket?
Darren: The name ProBlogger was one that I came up with when brainstorming with a friend and trying to come up with a name for monetising blogs. I remember saying during that session that it was similar to an amateur golfer wanting to turn Pro. Within moments of saying it I was checking to see if ProBlogger.com was registered.
Turns out it was but it was not being used for anything and so my next stop was to buy ProBlogger.net which I began ProBlogger on.
I tried for quite a few years to get the ProBlogger.com domain but the person who owned it originally had plans to use it to develop a blogging platform (like WordPress). They never ended up doing anything with it but I had the challenge of trying to buy it while all the time making it a more and more valuable domain name because the more I blogged the brand grew and the more people started to refer to bloggers who went full time as ProBloggers.
Luckily I ended up getting it in an auction of the domain. it didn’t come cheap but it was well worth grabbing.
We initially used ProBlogger.com as the home for a membership area but on closing that down 2 years ago have now slowly been transitioning the rest of what we do to that domain from ProBlogger.net (a slow process as we have many many thousands of articles on the .net site).
Mike: You also .net, .com, .org and perhaps other TLDs for your site. What are your thoughts on the importance of other online businesses doing the same?
Darren: The main reason I grabbed a few main domains other than the .com and the .net was as a bit of a defensive moved I guess. I didn’t want to see other ProBlogger blogs start up while I was getting established.
Having said that – there have been many copycats over the years with a number of them using similar names and one even completely replicating my design, logo and content! However ever time someone has tried to use the ProBlogger name my readers have been my best defence so it’s not been too much of an issue.
Mike: As I mentioned, ProBlogger has been a fantastic resource for me. Being among the first bloggers, I imagine you’ve learned a great deal from trial and error. What would you say your biggest learning has been as a professional blogger?
Darren: There have been many lessons and much experimentation along the way. Let me give you a few really quick ones:
1. It’s so important to start. So many PreBloggers have great ideas for blogs but sit on them so long and never do anything with them because the idea isn’t fully formed or they don’t think they can do it perfectly. No blog is perfect when it starts – the key is to get going and let it evolve!
2. Consistency is so important. Establish a regular rhythm of posting. You don’t need to publish daily but regularity is key as it helps you as a writer get into the rhythm of creating content but also your readers come to expect content from you and will show up expecting it at the intervals you tend to publish.
3. Take your readers on a journey. Tie one piece of content to another and your readers have more reason to stick around and will come to appreciate that you’re being thoughtful with your content.
4. Bring about Change – great blogs change the lives of their readers. Do some thinking about who you want to reach and how you want to change their live. It could be by educating them (as I do on my blogs) but it could be inspiring them, giving them a sense of belonging, entertaining them etc. Focus upon bringing about change and you’ll find readers will be attracted to your blog and will share it with others.
5. Get off your blog and promote it. Don’t just have a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. You do need to put a lot of work into building a great blog but nobody will promote it for you (especially in the early days) so you’ll need to get off your blog and promote it. Write content for other sites, leave comments on other blogs, engage on social media, attend events and join forums relevant to your niche. Work out where your potential readers are gathering and go be useful in those places.
Mike: You also have a podcast. How are you using that to supplement the site?
Darren: Some people love to read – others prefer to learn through the spoken word. Others till prefer video and or visual learning. So one way to reach more people is to use different forms of content.
One thing to consider when you choose what medium to use is your own skills and preferred styles of communication. My first love in communication was public speaking so I long wanted to start a podcast to practice that.
I create two teaching episodes a week (and occasionally feature guests) and a segment of my readers really enjoy that addition to ProBlogger. We also create transcripts of the episodes for those who prefer to read.
By adding the podcast we’ve grown our reach but also it seems to have personalised the ProBlogger brand a lot as podcasting is a very personal form of communication.
Mike: The dot blog TLD (.blog) will soon be available. In your professional opinion, will that be the route to go fro blogs of the future?
Darren: I’m not overly sold on the idea of TLD’s. While it might be useful for some who struggle to get the .com I still think .com is the ideal home for most people’s blogs. It ranks well in Google and is so easy to remember.
Having said that I’m not really a domaines so have not researched it too much!
Mike: What do you believe is required of an individual to make blogging, a lucrative, full-time career?
Darren: Many things but let me try to sum up some of it in a sentence or two.
A long term dedicate to serving your readers, the ability to communicate effectively, a topic that there is demand for information on, a willingness to experiment and learn from what you find and a willingness to put yourself out there for public critique.
There’s so much more of course but they were the first things that came to mind.
Mike: What words do you have for anyone considering writing a professional blog?
Darren: Give it a go but be ready to work hard and work at it for several years while your traffic builds up!
Great interview! It’s always an inspiration for people when they read success stories and tips from people that have been in an industry for a while and what better way to learn about blogging than from someone who got started in 2002.
Thanks Eric. It was a great to connect with Darren and get his perspective on things.