Corbett Barr is the blogger behind Think Traffic, one of the top blogs in the online marketing niche. He also runs two other successful blogs: his personal blog and Expert Enough. Through his courses and online consulting, Corbett has helped his clients to start over 670 new blogs. He’s also an informal advisor to some of the top bloggers online, including Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt and Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.
Agota’s note: Corbett is definitely one of my favorite bloggers in the online marketing niche: I love how honest he is about what it really takes to succeed in blogosphere. People, I really recommend Think Traffic for those of you who aren’t reading it already, a lot of great stuff there!
You’re living a pretty extraordinary life now. Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?
For the past three years I’ve been a professional blogger. This means I can work anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection and some inspiration. My wife and I live in Mexico each winter and travel elsewhere in the world over the summer. San Francisco is our “home base.”
You’ve mentioned in your blog that starting a business is not all unicorns and rainbows. What was your experience with starting businesses in general and blogs in particular? What were the main challenges and the biggest lessons learned? How does the path to fame and fortune in blogosphere really look like?
It’s easy to prey on human emotion and desire and promise “overnight success,” but it rarely happens that way. My advice is to choose something you enjoy doing and to focus on winning the war without stressing too much about each individual battle.
Put one foot in front of the other day after day and you’ll eventually make the breakthrough you’re looking for. It’s impossible to predict how long it will take for any individual because the entrepreneurial journey is very much about your personal development.
You seem to be a bit skeptical about the lifestyle design niche: “There’s a chicken-and-egg problem there. If you’re giving people advice about how to achieve their own ideal lifestyle design, should you have achieved yours first?” However, many people who want to start their blogs, especially young people in their 20s, don’t have any significant accomplishments and they don’t have any extraordinary expertise about something. How can someone like that start a blog on lifestyle design or personal development and turn it into a profitable business? Or should they just drop the idea?
If you don’t have much experience in a particular domain but you want to start a blog on that topic, you have to change how you approach things. Instead of “faking it till you make it,” think of yourself as a facilitator. Your job isn’t to be the expert, but to bring other experts to your audience and to add value to the discussion where you can.
The reason I’m not big on the “lifestyle design” niche (or the “rah rah, you can do anything you put your mind to” niche) is that probably 75% of people I talk to have aspirations of starting a blog/website around that topic. The barrier to entry is incredibly low, and the competition is incredibly high as a result.
Instead, why not start a site on something you care about deeply with less competition? What about camping, knitting, sailing, marathoning, rapid learning, fashion for 20-somethings, home theater, tea and coffee, etc.? There are thousands of ideas that have less competition and are frankly better opportunities for building a business around.
Most people follow Nike’s slogan when it comes to blog launches: they don’t think much about it, they just do it. Do you think this is the best way to go about blog launches, or there’s more to it than that? What would you advise to someone who is about to launch a blog?
There’s far more to it than “if you build it they will come.” The most successful launches are planned months in advance and include a very specific content plan and offsite marketing plan. We spend a lot of time discussing this in our blogging course.
You seem to have a lot of connections. Would you say that networking with other bloggers is crucial for success in blogosphere? What would be your advice for someone who is just starting out and doesn’t have any connections whatsoever? How can he or she build relationships with an A-list bloggers?
Absolutely. Every successful blogger I know has a lot of connections with other bloggers. Making friends with other bloggers is crucial, if only to maintain your sanity during the difficult times.
I teach people not to “network” in the boring business sense, but to focus on making genuine friendships with people who share similar interests. Don’t focus on “A-listers” but look for smart people at your level who obviously have a bright future ahead. Align yourself with these rising stars and grow along side them.
You often emphasize the importance of “writing epic shit”. What distinguishes low to mediocre quality content from high quality content? Why it’s so important to consistently produce high quality content? Would you say that content is something that makes or breaks a blog?
We’re all exposed to so much information every day, it’s ridiculous. The only way to grow is to rise above the noise. Your content has to be more useful, more interesting, more inspiring or more entertaining than most other content if you want to build an audience. Mediocre content won’t cut it. Content will certainly make or break your blog.
You’re great at launching blogs and building audiences, since both Think Traffic and Expert Enough are pretty young, yet they are doing just fine. Most people struggle with this, though. What would be your advice for someone who recently launched their blog and wants to expand their readership beyond their grandmother and their cat?
Create something lots of other people want or need and get the word out about what you’re doing. If you haven’t built an audience yet, it probably means your content isn’t useful/interesting/inspiring enough.
I’ve noticed that only few people manage to use social media to really accelerate the growth of their blogs: it seems that to most bloggers, social media serves more as a distraction than a useful business tool. How can a newbie blogger use social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter to really grow their blogs?
Facebook and Twitter have been critical to my success, but they don’t come first. Content comes first. Engaging and helping my audience comes second. Networking with other bloggers comes third. Social media can help you achieve these goals, but it’s a tool, not a goal in itself.
You’ve recently launched a course, “Start A Blog That Matters”. What were your experience with building and launching a product? What were the biggest lessons learned? What would be your advice to someone who wants to create a successful info product and sell it on their blog?
Launching the “start a blog” course was easy because I had an audience, I knew what they needed help with, I had experience in providing those solutions and had connections with other bloggers who wanted to help spread the word.
The best way to ensure a successful launch is to build your audience, learn exactly what they need, know what you’re talking about and to build the connections you’ll need long before they’re needed.
Last, but not least, what would be your key advice to our readers who want to become successful bloggers and eventually be able to live from the income of their blogs, but are on the very beginning of this path? What is the most important thing?
The most important things are:
1) to set your expectations properly in the beginning. If you expect to be a huge success in 3-6 months, you’ll probably get frustrated and quit before you ever had a chance. It will probably take more like 18 to 36 months to earn a substantial income from blogging, if you’re one of the brightest and most dedicated who try.
2) focus on your audience and what you can do for them, NOT on your own motivations. What you want doesn’t matter. What other people want is gold. Help your audience achieve/learn/transform something and then you’ll be able to achieve your own goals.
Cheers! I hope this is helpful. People can reach me at corbett @corbettbarr.com with questions or feedback.