Hey folks, this is the very first of many blogger interviews that we’ll be hosting on Magnet4Blogging. Every two weeks I hope to spotlight one blogger who I think is making a difference in the blogosphere. In this interview we put the spotlight on professional blogger Matt Smith from Online Income Teacher.
First of all a big thank you to Matt for agreeing to this interview, let’s get started.
#1. Welcome Matt thanks for accepting to do this interview, so to start off, tell us a bit about yourself and your background and where you’re from?
Thanks for inviting me Fabrizio. Am a big fan of you and your site, so I was more than happy to do this when you asked me.
My name is Matt Smith and I’m a full-time blogger and internet marketer making my living online. I live and work in Sheffield (United Kingdom), which is where I also grew up. I’ve been blogging full-time for about 4-5 years now, but I started playing about with websites much earlier than that.
#2. When did you first realize you wanted to become a blogger, and what inspired you to start blogging Matt?
Well blogging is still, even today, a relatively new industry, so I certainly never dreamt of doing this when I was growing up. I originally wanted to go into the film & TV business, working behind the scenes within the special effects department. That’s actually what I ended up studying at University, though whilst there I developed another love and that was building websites.
I had done a couple of courses on web design and at that time the whole idea of building your own site(s) was becoming much more accessible due to the growing popularity of WordPress. It was a really exciting time as now, you didn’t need to be able to code a site from the ground up, you could get up and running relatively quickly and focus on the site itself. This was when I began to think about a career online.
#3. How did you make your first dollar?
This kind of links in well with the previous question because the first money I made online was when I was first starting out.
I’d been building a few very simple sites whilst at University to help learn about the whole process. These were just me messing about really and sort of just experimenting with different ideas, nothing serious. Anyway, some friends of mine at the time had formed a band (as you do at Uni), and wanted a way of increasing their exposure, which is when I suggested they build their own website. They had no idea (or real interest) to do it themselves, so they asked me to do it for them.
I ended up doing a few sites like this for friends and family, which is where I earned my first money online. It wasn’t much, but I learned lots through the whole process which made me want to carry on. This is when I started to try out some website ideas of my own for the purpose of making money.
As for how I earned my first dollar with my own site(s), which was through advertising (Google AdSense). It may not bring in a lot of money when you first start out, but it is an incredibly easy way of monetizing a site whilst you concentrate on growing and adding more content.
#4. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?
That’s easy – “Never give up!!!”
The vast majority of blogs fail after only a few months and that is usually because the owner has thrown in the towel. The thing is, it’s very easy to do that. Blogging can be very hard work, especially in the early stages when you are trying to get it off the ground. If you don’t get the level of traffic that you were expecting straight away, then it’s only natural to think that maybe people aren’t interested.
In reality, traffic levels tend to build up gradually so it is just a case of being persistent and never giving up. It took me a couple of months before I saw any real traffic on my site after I launched, but from that point my site has continued to grow. You always have to remember that the hard work you put in in the initial stages may not pay off straight away, but all those posts that you write can still be found by people a year, 2 years, 10 years down the road.
So never give up because your site might just be at the point where it begins to take off.
Fabrizio: Absolutely Matt that’s a great lesson and good advice for any readers that are relatively new to blogging, thanks for that.
#5. Share with us three things that you do that encourages relationship building on your blog?
This is a great question and an incredibly important one for many new bloggers to get to grips with. Sites can only become successful and grow when they build a community around their site and to do that you need to build a relationship with your readers.
a) Put A Face To The Name – I always think that it is hard for people to build a relationship with a faceless “corporate” looking site because they can’t relate to it in any way. By associating yourself with your site, you allow people to see the person behind the site. Not only this, but they will be able to relate to you as a person when they are reading your blog posts, which can encourage them to keep coming back. Fabrizio is a great example of someone who has done that with this very site (Magnet4Marketing at the time).
b) Always Be Helpful – Building relationships is a two way thing, you have to put in the effort if you want to get anything out of it. You have got to give a reason for people to want to keep coming back to your site and one of the best ways to do that is to simply be helpful. Whether it is within your writing, when answering emails/comments, sending out newsletters, etc. you have to take the time to be helpful. If someone takes the time to email you with a question, then take the time to answer it properly. Do that and that person will be much more likely to keep coming back for more as you helped them out when they needed it.
c) Call To Action – It may sound a little harsh but sometimes people just need a kick up the backside to get them into gear. It is very easy for people to simply click away from your site after they read one of your posts, when what you really want is for them to leave a comment. This is where adding a ‘call to action’ at the end of a post comes in as it can help encourage people to get involved in the conversation. Ask for people’s opinions or ask them a further question, whatever it is you are helping to get the debate going and build a community around your site.
#6. What are your 3 favorite WordPress plugins?
I don’t know whether I’d go as far as saying that these are my “favourite” 3 plugins, but they are certainly my 3 most “useful” plugins that I make sure are installed on all of my sites.
a) WordPress SEO by Yoast – SEO is obviously a very important aspect for every site, which is why this plugin is so useful. This helps to identify useful on-page SEO features that you can include/improve on each of your posts, allowing them to rank higher in the search engines.
b) W3 Total Cache – Search engines have put much more emphasis on website speed these days, so it’s extremely important that websites act in order to make them as fast as possible. This fantastic plugin helps to greatly improve site speed by enabling things like; browser cache, database cache, page cache, CDN integration and much more. Admittedly it isn’t the easiest of plugins to get your head round as you have to make sure you set it up properly, but once you do you will notice a BIG difference.
c) Disqus – Every site needs to build a community around their site and one of the best ways to do that is via the comment section of your blog. Disqus (in my opinion) is simply the best comment platform available, making it really simple for people to engage, ask questions and express their opinion under a post. It’s dead easy to install on a site and you are able to migrate all of your existing WordPress comments, meaning that you won’t lose any should you switch to Disqus. Plus, I know Fabrizio is a big fan of this one.
Fabrizio: Yes absolutely “useful” plugins for sure, I’m also glad you mentioned Disqus because I’ve noticed more bloggers are starting to use Disqus as their main commenting and community building plugin. I absolutely love it as you know and as for Spam, it’s become almost non existent since starting to use the plugins across all my sites.
#7. Asides from blogging what other content marketing platforms are you using to promote your brand?
Well, I tend to use social media a lot to help market my site. It’s such a great way to reach large groups of people and increase my brand awareness. Apart from that, it’s also a great way to interact with your existing readers and keep them coming back for more on your site.
Guest blogging is something that has fallen out of favour a bit online, though that’s mainly because people don’t use it properly and try to abuse the system with spam. Done properly, guest blogging can be an extremely effective way to market your site, so I try to do that when I can.
Lastly, because I have more than one site that I run, I tend to use them to help promote each other. This way, you don’t own and run lots of separate sites that run independently from one another, but instead a large network of sites that help funnel traffic between one another.
#8. What area of ‘online marketing’ or ‘blogging’ do you consider yourself to be an expert in Matt?
I hate the word “expert” as it suggests that you know everything about a subject. Blogging is always changing, so it’s important to keep learning about things and keep on top of what’s happening in that industry.
I suppose my area of expertise (and I use that term loosely) would be in content creation and SEO. I love writing and creating new content for my readers, which seems to go down well. I find tutorials especially enjoyable to create as it’s great to be able to teach and explain new things to people.
SEO is something that I think a lot of people are scared of. It can seem complicated at first, but once you get to know how it all works (which you should definitely learn about) it’s not so bad. I do quite a bit of SEO work for people, so I guess I’m OK at that too.
#9. Someone wants to start a blog to make money, what would be the one single piece of advice you would give them?
This is a question that crops up a lot from new bloggers. I always say that they should focus on what they are interested in, rather than purely looking at what can make them money. Blogging can be incredibly tough at times and requires lots of work/hours to get a site off the ground, so it helps greatly when you are passionate about the subject that you are writing about.
Money is usually the by-product of great/engaging/entertaining sites, so focus more on that rather than simply “making money” and try to enjoy what you are doing.
#10. Asides from Online Income Teacher what other websites are you currently working on?
Alongside ‘Online Income Teacher’ I also run ‘Bizzebee’, which is a site I run with a group of fellow bloggers online. Bizzebee focuses more on small businesses that are looking to get online for the first time.
We have also setup ‘The Hive’, which is a premium membership area of Bizzebee, full of video tutorials, eBooks, audio, whiteboard presentations and much more for people to learn from.
#11. Which social network site are you most active on and why?
I tend to go in phases with social media, often concentrating on one platform until I get bored and then moving on to another. I try to be active on all of them, but I do tend to focus on only one at a time.
Currently, I’m probably the most active on Google+. Google+ is arguably the most important social media site at the moment due to it being heavily integrated with Google’s search engine, so I’ve been trying to focus on that recently. Factor in that it was created with sharing/marketing in mind (something that Facebook wasn’t really built for) and you can see why you need to be on there.
#12. Who are your top 3 most influential bloggers / entrepreneurs and why?
That’s a tough one as there are so many great bloggers to look up to and draw inspiration from. If I had to choose 3 though, I’d go with;
Like I say, there are many others but these 3 are particularly good examples who have built up their sites into massive platforms that are known globally. It’s inspiring to know that each of them started where I am and grew their sites over time to what they are now. They are all genuine nice guys as well, which is a bonus!
#13. If you could start your blog all over again what would you do differently?
Without doubt I would do things much quicker. When I was first thinking about getting involved with blogging, I would think and plan out a lot beforehand. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but there comes a point where you just have to jump in and get started. Despite researching a lot before I started, I only really started to learn when I had my first site up and running.
I am a big fan of practical learning, so it was only after I had launched that I began to learn about all the different aspects that go into blogging (i.e. social media marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, content creation, HTML, CSS, WordPress, branding, hosting, legal requirements, conversion rates, etc. etc.) It’s almost impossible to learn about everything beforehand, but if you learn about each aspect as you go along, then it seems (at least in my experience) to stick.
I’m the first to admit that I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I wouldn’t change any of that. Mistakes are good, in fact they are very beneficial, IF you learn from them. I think many people are scared of making mistakes, but it’s just a part of learning that’s all.
#14. What is your biggest achievement so far in blogging and online business?
Well I’m really proud to have broken into the top 50,000 sites in the world, which when you think that there are millions of sites online, it is pretty crazy. Lots of hard work went into reaching that level and the next goal is to break into the top 25,000.
What I’m most proud of though is simply still being online. Most blogs/websites only tend to last a few months, so the fact that I’ve been running Online Income Teacher for nearly 4 years is pretty amazing.
#15. What’s next for Matt Smith?
I’ve got a few projects that I’m working on at the moment. I’m planning on starting a new site in a completely different niche soon, which is really exciting. For now though, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with ‘Online Income Teacher’, ‘Bizzebee’ and freelance work. I like being busy though so I’m not complaining.
Fabrizio: Matt thanks so much again for taking the time to do this, this interview has been insightful, inspirational and educational, so all you newbie bloggers reading this interview, I hope you’ve been taking notes. Once again I hope that this interview’s inspired you to keep working at your blog, passion and consistency is key amongst many other vital ingredients. As Matt says, there’s always something new to learn in blogging, so keep learning, keep applying yourself and with enough hard work you’ll find success with your blog too.
OK folks that wraps it up for this interview, keep a close eye for our next up coming blogger interview very soon.