Financial Diversions: The Business of Blogging

When it comes to business and finance I have two things in common with Lady Gaga and Frank Sinatra; I have my own style, and I do it my way.  I blog about finance for several reasons: my readers, as a financial journal, to clarify financial ideas and strategies, and as a business venture.  Today I explore the business of financial blogging.

The business plan for the Balhiser Financial Blog consists of three main phases:

  1. Build an audience of financially-minded readers and investors.
  2. When readership is sufficiently high, sell ads on the site.
  3. Write one or more financial books, published electronically, and sell for a modest price (say $2.99).

Currently, I’m focused on phase 1, audience building.  As I blogged in May the Balhiser Finance Blog has had over 58,000 unique visitors and counting.  Had the blog been running ads, the finance blog may have earned about 500 dollars in revenue.  Clearly the blog is a small business. This estimate is based on an earlier time, when web traffic was lower, and the blog accumulated just over 15 dollars in revenue.  These low numbers persuaded me to postpone running ads until traffic increased.

So I looked at my traffic using Google Analytics (a great and free tool).  Comparing this month’s traffic with last month’s showed visits up 89%, page views up 182% and average time on site up 273%. Comparing to 12 months ago visits are up 4,400% and page views are up 9,380%.  Yay!  While the Balhiser Investing Blog is a small business, it’s a growing small business.

I know a lot of web professionals, who give me all sorts of advice on growing blog readership.  The common themes, ideas, and rules that have worked best for my blog:

  1. Blog frequently
  2. Know your audience
  3. Write good content

I have amended rule #3 to “Write interesting content.”  Following rule #2, this means writing content that the blog’s audience finds interesting.  Three way of finding what’s interesting to the blog’s audience are:

  1. Most-read posts
  2. What search keywords bring the most visitors?
  3. Comments from readers

What’s humbling for me is that the blog articles I consider my very best work are seldom the most popular.  My most recent surprise was the popularity of the post Financial Baseball which sought to explain the mortgage mess around synthetic CDOs using an analogy to fantasy baseball.  Based on the positive response I penned the article Financial Baseball and the Finance of Baseball discussing what I’d consider if I was in a position to buy an MLB franchise.  Sorry readers, neither of these blog posts would make my personal “Best financial articles of this decade” list.  I’m glad many of you enjoyed reading them.

Occasionally a financial topic that I am passionate about also gets great readership.  That happened with the blog article CPI Really Stands for… which talked about the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Consequently, I plan to write more blog articles about the CPI, the definition of CPI, the shortcomings of the current CPI, and alternative price measures to the CPI.

Some advertising and media pros have suggested that I add more news and web trending topics, relating them back to finance.  Such as how Rep. Antony Weiner’s situation will effect the House and pending financial legislation, or how a divorce could effect Rep. Weiner’s finances.  There are practically an “infiniti” of trends if one follows Google Trends:  blogging about the financial impact of Gabrielle Giffords’ tragic injury and the roll of short-term disability insurance, blogging about how trendy celebrities like Colin Farrell, Ice T, and Jessica Simpson make and invest (or lose) their money, even talking about the finance of NASCAR versus Formula 1 (perhaps the most expensive sports enterprise on the planet).  Actually, I kind of like the NASCAR v. F1 idea… it could be fun to research.

Mostly I’ll stick with the 3 tried-and-true rules above.   If and when my audience grows an additional 10-20 times, I’ll probably start running ads again (even though they can be a bit annoying).  And I’ll keep on blogging.

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