In answer to the question, "Can one earn a living blogging?" we turn to Chloe Spencer, my teenage daughter, who recently presented her blogging-for-profit story at the Professional Blogging: Ways and Means session at the BlogHer conference to an audience of passionate bloggers, business professionals, and savvy SEO acolytes. The focus of her presentation was about the story of her "Ultimate Neopets Cheats Blog," which speaks to the heart of bloggers everywhere.
In early 2006, when Chloe was 15, she decided to turn her love for Neopets, a virtual pets site popular with kids the world over, into a blog. Instead of throwing up a blog and worrying about the SEO ramifications later, she spent a few hours doing keyword research through WordTracker and Google Suggest for her blog's title and section headings.
Through these online tools she discovered that "neopets cheats" was a hugely popular search term that she could target through her blog. She incorporated the term into an enticing title, "Ultimate Neopets Cheats Site."
After weighing the pros and cons of the free blogging platforms available, she started her blog through WordPress.com which had a lot of trust and authority in Google's eyes. By setting up her blog through WordPress, Chloe was able to avoid the so-called "Google Sandbox," and jumped to page 1 in Google for the term "neopet cheats" within two weeks of her blog's launch.
With her blog's initial success in the SERPs (search engine results pages), Chloe wanted to take the next step to turn the blog into a profitable venue. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to integrate Google ads on her WordPress.com blog, because of WordPress.com's restrictive Terms of Service.
Instead, Chloe purchased her own "neopets" domain (neopets fanatic.com) and migrated over her existing content, also powered by the WordPress software. Her new domain provided her with the freedom to make money from Google's AdSense program by displaying relevant ads alongside the content.
Chloe then went on to build links within the blogosphere through places like Blogger Stories.
Watch some of the highlights of Chloe's presentation at BlogHer 2007...
Just how profitable is her blog? By "working" just a few hours per month maintaining the blog and adding new content, Chloe earns through Google AdSense between $20, $30 and sometimes even $40 on a daily basis. Chloe's monthly earnings total $700 to $900 a month for very little work. If you calculate her ROI, she's earning over $100 per hour of blogging effort!
Keep in mind that Chloe is a teenager; if she wanted to earn that same kind of money through a part-time job, she'd have to work between 25 to 30 hours per week at minimum wage at her local fast food restaurant. The nicest part about Chloe's earnings, is that she is not a "slave to her computer." By generating money while she sleeps, Chloe can take a vacation whenever she wants -- and not lose money.
Chloe's blog is going through another growth spurt. Even though Chloe has built an income-generating asset, she is seeking other ways to enhance her blog's content, and its 1000s of comments (some pages have over 3000 comments!), that will keep up with the ever-changing blogosphere.
Chloe's attention has recently turned to creating a forum through a sister project of WordPress called bbPress. By making her blog's popularity more manageable, she's hoping to attract (and retain) more visitors to her site. Offline, Chloe is working to incorporate face-to-face networking at conferences into order to build links and garner invaluable contacts.
Chloe's success story doesn't have to be unusual, and hopefully other teens will take a cue from Chloe in order to build online (and offline) assets. Her "Neopets blog" story also inspires us to use, implement, and keep up with SEO not just in our business life, but also in our personal life. By showing us that SEO is not this impenetrable "techno-fortress," Chloe has reminded us that SEO is easy enough that even a child can do it! (And note that I have spent only a handful of hours working with her on the blog; this has basically been all her.)
The moral to this story? By building income-generating assets instead of being a dollars-for-hours "wage slave," anyone can afford to turn their dreams into reality. Thanks to her blog's strong rankings for Neopets related terms (including a page 1 ranking for "neopets"!), Chloe is managing her dreams, a growing college fund to get her to film school, so that she can be a Hollywood director some day!