In my experience, there are 2 ways to build a successful blog. Both are extremely powerful. Although the route to success always starts by providing great content on a regular basis, once you have done that for long enough, I’ve found there are 2 routes open to you.
- The associated route.
- The independent route.
The associated route is used by many of the world’s top bloggers. It’s where a group of bloggers from the same niche or a complimentary one, decide to form a loose (or sometimes formal) agreement, to help each other increase their reach and make money. They then work to promote the other people they are associated with. For example; they link to each other regularly in blog posts and will write blog posts about their associates products or services. They also pass traffic to each other, via links on social networks. It can be extremely powerful, if you have a number of influential associates, all helping each other. Read any of these bloggers for any period of time, and you will very clearly be able to see who they are associated with.
The independent route, which I use, is used by many successful bloggers. It’s where the blogger builds his or her blog without entering into those formal or informal associations with other bloggers. If we mention a blogger or a product, it’s only because we love the blogger’s work or we believe in the product. We rely on readers sharing our content and effective SEO to develop our readership. Independent bloggers are equally easy to spot, because we don’t have the same ads on our blogs or recommend the same ebooks / events / products as the associated bloggers in our niche.
The fastest way to grow your readership is definitely the associated blogger route. Of course, there is a price to pay for this kind of fast track success. You need to be OK about promoting your associates and their offerings to your readership and social network. Yes, you will be able to write about what matters to you, but you will also need to write posts that name-check your associates and push their latest offerings. Is that a small price to pay? It’s your call. There’s no right or wrong here.
Conversely, the independent blogger is free to recommend anything he or she wishes. For example, although this blog now has a significant readership, I have just 1 affiliate product here; which is the Headway theme I use to design the blog. However, I’m not associated with Headway or any of the bloggers who use their theme. I read Danny Brown’s blog and he uses Headway, but I also read Seth Godin’s blog and he doesn’t. I know Grant Griffiths, who owns headway, but I get no special rates from them; nothing which you wouldn’t get if you were one of their affiliates. Here’s the thing: If I switched to another theme tomorrow, it wouldn’t be an issue for Headway or me. That’s the freedom I enjoy, by being independent.
The associated route is powerful and many of the blogs I read are written by associated bloggers. It doesn’t bother me. I know why they promote what they do and I’m 100% fine with it. These guys have businesses to run, bills to pay and many are doing so VERY effectively, thanks to the massive reach of their combined associate network. Make no mistake – It’s amazing! This is why I believe that for many people, if they get the chance to take the associated route, and it is an association of great people, they should really consider it!
So, why do I take the independent route?
The answer is simple: For my business model, it’s more valuable for me to have the total freedom that comes with independence.
I am in a very different position to many bloggers in my niche. For instance, I am not part of the speaker circuit and many of them are. They have seats to fill at events and need a massive reach, in order to promote their gigs. I don’t. I have no ads here and don’t push affiliate sales, so I have no need to drive up page views either.
For me, the independent route is best. I write for you. I show you my work. You call me if you want great marketing, because you know my work and my approach. I like it like that.
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