Why Your Blog Is NOT A Business

Note from Corbett: This is a guest post from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. Danny is a star student from Traffic School, and he has been a regular contributor to Think Traffic over the past few months. 

“Your blog is a business.”

How many times have you heard these words, or words to that effect?

Itís in vogue these days to say that every blogger is running a business, with the potential of replacing their full-time income and freeing them from the 9-to-5 grind.

Except… it’s not true.

Most blogs are NOT businesses, and I’ll tell you why.

But first, let’s ask the question: what makes a business?

It’s What You Do, Not What You Think

When people tell each other (and themselves) that their blog is a business, what they’re really saying is that you should think of your blog as a business.

But as they say, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. That’s the trouble – thinking about your blog as a business doesn’t actually make it one.

For something to be a business, it needs to do all of the following:

  1. Build awareness. In other words, create an audience that is paying attention to – and interested in – what you’ve got to say.
  2. Create interest. Once people are paying attention, they’ve got to like what you’re saying enough to stick around and take action.
  3. Convert sales. Once people like you, it’s time to start making money, by turning audience members into customers.
  4. Keep customers. It’s not enough to sell something once, you need to keep on selling to them, so that a single transaction turns into a profitable customer relationship.

And What About Your Blog?

Most blogs aren’t doing all of this – not even close. For most blogs, the current situation looks something like this:

  1. Moderate awareness. There isn’t a huge amount of traffic coming to the blog, but there is some.
  2. Lukewarm interest. Most of the traffic doesn’t subscribe to receive updates, and isn’t tempted by the lame 20-page e-book of stuff they already knew about the niche.
  3. Hardly any sales. In addition to weak traffic and lukewarm interest, there’s no real understanding of the target market, and no sales funnel. Hence, hardly any sales.
  4. Repeat customers? Don’t make me laugh! Yeah, this isn’t surprising – if people aren’t buying, obviously they aren’t going to keep on buying.

This is a very common picture, so don’t feel too bad if it sounds just a tad bit familiar.

The question is, why is this situation so common?

For Your Blog To Be a Business, Learn About Business! (Not Blogging!)

Most of the time, blogs aren’t businesses because the bloggers don’t understand business. And for blogging to be a business, you need to understand business!

  • If you want to grow an audience, then study marketing, not traffic…
  • If you want to create a product, then learn about value creation, not e-books…
  • If you want to make money, then study finance, not passive income…

In short, if you want to build a sustainable business, then study business, not blogging!

And the most important fundamental business framework to understand is the Chain of Conversion…

Enter the Chain of Conversion

The purpose of marketing is to move people through the steps in the Chain of Conversion.

Here’s what the chain looks like:

  1. First, STRANGERS learn about you, and become LEADS (bloggers call this “traffic”)
  2. Then, LEADS like what you’ve got, and become PROSPECTS (bloggers call this “subscribers”)
  3. Next, PROSPECTS buy from you, and become CUSTOMERS
  4. And finally, CUSTOMERS buy from you again, and become REPEAT CUSTOMERS

So how do you turn your blog into a business?

Turning Your Blog into a Business: Fixing the Chain, One Link at a Time

If you want to turn your blog into a business, then you have to fix the Chain of Conversion, one link at a time. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Start by mapping out the chain. How many visitors do you have to your site, how many of them convert into subscribers, how many of them buy something from you, and how many of them keep on buying. (You can do this by using goals in Google Analytics.)
  2. Find the problem areas. Where do your conversions drop off? Identify the problem area (or problem areas, if there are several).
  3. Diagnose the problems. Ask yourself why you’re losing people at that particular stage in the process. Get outside help if you need, but arrive at a good answer.
  4. Fix the links, one at a time. Make whatever changes you have to make, until people are flowing smoothly through the chain.

Now the real question is what to do if you don’t know how to fix the problem areas? What do you need to learn in order to be able to do that?

Funny you should ask…

It’s All About Marketing

Moving people through the steps in the Chain of Conversion is what marketing is all about.

Now, there are some great marketing programs out there, but they all seem to be closing! Traffic School is great, but it’s closed to new members.

And as of September 1, the same will be true of Firepole Marketing.

That’s the program that I built with my partner, Peter. We invested over 2,500 hours to create the best training program on the market, and we’re so confident in what we’re teaching that we back it up with a $1,000/month guarantee – if by the end of the program you haven’t added $1,000 to your monthly bottom line, we’ll refund your tuition – no questions asked.

So what do you think? Is your blog a business, or not? Do you see how the Chain of Conversion can help you turn it into one?

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that teaches expert marketing for non-marketers. Get his free video course on how to get more money out of your business, website or blog, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

62 thoughts on “Why Your Blog Is NOT A Business”

  1. Danny, thanks for this.

    Having an intrinsic knowledge and passion for the business you’re promoting is centrally important.

    In an ideal World, you may want to add a step 5 after “And finally, CUSTOMERS buy from you again, and become REPEAT CUSTOMERS” – such as: “Repeat customers are more likely to refer you on to people they know – your business message then becomes Viral”

    thanks again, great work

    1. If you have a passion for what you write, those that have a similar passion will be naturally attracted to your blog. I’ve seen people try to be far too clever with their blogs and create niche sites they really don’t love and then watch them die on the vine.

      If you write about what you love then you can take that part of the work out of your blog routine.

  2. I agree with Michael. Blogs definitely can be businesses, if that’s the goal of the blogger, regardless if the blogger runs it like a business.

    For instance, I can open an ice cream shop and sell below cost. That would be a failing business, but it’s no less a business.

    Perhaps the line you’re trying to draw is that there’s a difference between successful blogs-as-business and failing ones?

    1. Hey Dean, I’m not sure I understand the ice cream analogy – I’d say that in that case, the ice cream shop isn’t much of a business either. The same goes for blogs – if your goal is just to do it for fun, then it’s a hobby, and that’s fine.

      But if you want results – whether they’re in terms of money, reach, or whatever – then you need to understand how you’re prompting people to act, and that’s a function of conversion.

    2. My point with the ice cream shop was that just because it “isn’t much of a business” doesn’t mean it is not a business at all. A failing business is still a business (at least for a while). I’m guessing you wouldn’t take the stand that Borders stopped being a business once it started operating in the red. So it seemed like you were saying any business that is not turning a profit is no longer a business, which seems off to me.

      Regardless, your post is one of the best on the subject of taking business-minded blogging I’ve read in a long time.

    3. Hmmm… that’s a good point – businesses that aren’t doing well are still businesses, you’re right about htat.

      I guess I’m saying that the initial transition from “hobby” to “business” has to occur; you aren’t guaranteed success by that transition, but if that transition isn’t made, you can be pretty sure that success won’t be had.

      Anyway, thank you very much – I really appreciate it! :)

    4. Dude you rock man. You’re taking over the Internet by storm!

      I’m going to have to follow you more closely – you’ve got rocksolid business sense. That’s rare in this watery blogging world. Heh.

      Keep in touch.

  3. Excellent information. If my business was doing good I’d get into your class, but if my business was doing good would I need your class? What am I to do?

    Anyway – I would love to take your Firepole Marketing class but business has been slow and I could really use it. Real Estate in Nevada has died so I’m working on other ideas. I hope to read more of your work and possibly increase my business by what I pick up from your blogs.
    Thanks so much.

    1. It might sound a bit self-serving, Vincent, but honestly, my advice to you is to bite the bullet and sign up. Our monthly option isn’t very expensive at all, and the only way to get results is to get training.

      We made a really good (free) video about this – if you have a few minutes, you should really watch it.

      You’re welcome to read more of what I’ve published, and there’s a lot of good free information out there – the question is, how long can you wait until you start seeing real success?

  4. Thanks for the kick in the butt.
    At this moment I am converting strangers to leads…..but the percentage is very low.
    I am also working on creating a relationship through an autoresponder series, and I am working on my 1st product…..

    The $1000 guarantee is 2 good 2 B true.

  5. Does anyone have suggestions about books to learn about finance, marketing and all the things mentioned in this post?
    I know there are many, but some of them are better and some in particular are better for bloggers.

  6. Great post – I have definitely made (am still making!) the mistake that thinking that learning about blogging will teach me how to turn blogging into a business. I’m just started to scratch into the business side of things and realizing how much more there is for me to learn into order to take my blog to the money-earning level.

  7. Heck yeah, my blog is a business. Granted, sometimes it’s a poorly run business, but from the beginning, my goals for the site have included continuous commitment, analysis and decision-making based on data and metrics and providing consistent value.

    Of course, it’s for all of these reasons that I tell most people that ask me about what I do to stay the heck away from blogging. Despite what all those info products would have you believe, there’s nothing easy about building an authority blog!

    Great post, Danny :)

    1. Sarah, I’m finding it more profitable to build an expertise blog rather than an authority blog. Takes longer, but there seems to be a lot less competition in the expertise arena.

      While this seems to violate a fundamental tenet of marketing, it actually doesn’t: I’m looking for people who need an *actual* expert, right now.

    2. Heh, yeah, starting a blog-based business (like any business) is a ton of work, and never easy. When I lecture to Entrepreneurship students, I always tell them not to do it for the money, because it’s the slowest, hardest way to make money.

      That being said, it’s the most rewarding thing to do, and you’re one of the ones that’s doing it all the right way. :)

    3. Aww, shucks – thanks :) Your Entrepreneurship students are lucky to have you (at least, my college experience would have been crazy different if I’d have had teachers like you…).

      Take care!

  8. I’m in a very interesting situation where my site has become well-known to local designer/developers. So much so that it has attracted face-to-face interest and turned into work for me. I like that.

    Having a global reach is cool, and “selling” stuff while I sleep is very, very cool, but I *really* like having in-person contact.

    1. Hey Dave, that’s great – congratulations!

      I think you’re still following the same model – after all, for the conversions to be happening, you need to have the right people, who are interested in the right things.

      And you don’t need the volumes to be high, especially if you’re connecting with people to do one-on-one work, which is usually a lot more lucrative.

      All that being said, I don’t mean to discount the “fun factor”, which is very important – if it wasn’t fun, then we should be doing something else. :)

  9. Strangely, I like to think of my blog as the one place I am *not* doing business. It’s the place I can write creatively about subjects that interest me. All my other sites are businessy. I just needed somewhere to unwind – and practice what I love to do, which is to help other people.

    But in regards to my business sites, I completely agree and I definitely need to look into analytics a lot more closely.

    1. Hey Christopher, thanks for commenting. That’s a very important perspective – it’s just as important not to mix business objectives into a non-business blog as it is to stay focused on business objectives if it is a business blog. :)

  10. Danny, I’m aware that you have a lot of guest posts, and I know that I won’t be able to keep track of your escapades during the next few weeks. But as long as I commented on and tweeted one of them, I told myself, I’d be happy 😉

    This post created a wonderful moment for me, the ‘lightbulb moment’. To be honest, I’d love for my blog to be a base for me to be successful, but I’d never thought of it in the way you described before. It makes sense, but then I guess the best ideas always do!

    I’m still learning the ropes, but I intend to keep on learning. In fact, I’m going to head over to your guest post on Copyblogger (about the books) now and read up. I’ve got an Amazon voucher I can use 😉

    Best of luck Danny :-)

    1. Hey Stu, why would it be hard to keep up? It’s already Tuesday, and so far I’ve only had 6 guest posts this week! 😉

      I’m really glad you found the post to be valuable. It’s an important mental shift that people need to take in terms of what they look at, and then what they do in order to achieve their goals.

      If you’re thinking about more books than your voucher can cover, let me know which ones you’re thinking of, and I’ll point you to the best ones. :)

    2. Well Danny, the books I’m after are those that can provide a good business sense for me ie not so much the self-help kind, but the practical kind. What to actually ‘do’ in situations, rather than thinking positive thoughts (which I do anyway).

      Any ideas? :-)

    3. Thanks Danny, I’ve taken a look at those books, and they seem awesome (in a word).

      I’m gonna get at least one of them, and enjoy the ride :-)

  11. Hi Danny!

    You are sooo right. I just started a vampire blog July 1st that has produced traffic – 8,000 in July, 5,000+ so far this month – with NO conversions. I figured I should get some sales from that traffic.

    Then I started getting emails. Love your site, how do I sign up for updates? How do I buy that item you blogged about?

    I just couldn’t understand why it was a problem. I had a photo that was a link, a text link and a banner style link with the store name for the affiliate product.

    After reading more about marketing I realized I didn’t have a clear call to action at the end, the text link wasn’t underlined so perhaps they didn’t know it was a link and I need to add Buy Buttons even though it was a “blog” and not a “website”.

    Paradigm shift required indeed!

  12. Very compelling case and offer Danny. I love it. The chain of conversion is what the best bloggers are doing without their audience even knowing it. And the people struggling to get off the ground need exposure and great training like this so they can get on the right path. Way to fill a tremendous need out there. Good stuff.

  13. All my blogs started off as hobbies, as I used other means to make money online, but now some of my blogs grew into businesses and it’s so different, I still enjoy it, but I treat them very differently.

    You always have to figure out what you want your blog to be, but Danny is right, way to many people are confused between hobby and business when there really shouldn’t be a grey area, it’s better (in my opinion) to just chose one (business or hobby) and act accordingly.

  14. Hi Danny,

    You did a great job of explaining the difference between a blog and a business in your post. For someone who is just starting to think about how I can make my blog a business, I will definitely refer back to the Chain of Conversation and keep your other points in mind. Thanks!

    1. That’s great, Cathy, I’m really glad to hear that the post was helpful!

      I’ve found that the metaphor of the chain, and fixing the links in the chain, is very useful in diagnosing business challenges.

      Of course, fixing those links takes more training… 😉

  15. I’m a marketer who’s recently learned more about the use of blogging as an additional media for reaching any and everyone along the value chain (business-owner perspective). Reading others’ blogs has been refreshing – I SO needed a break from the status quo of boring editorialists – but writing on my own is therapeutic (blogger with the intent to motivate others and share good content perspective).

    Nice way to distinguish that blogging is not a business, Danny. And thanks to folks like you, I’m understanding more and more how it can be operated as a business, not merely serve as one means of luring in new customers or serving as my creative outlet.

    1. Micaela, thank you for your comment!

      Congratulations on your forays into the blogging world – I’ve taken a look at your blog, and there’s so much rich content – it looks like you’re doing great!

      And yeah, I didn’t mean to minimize the importance of a blog as a creative outlet (I certainly enjoy that aspect from time to time), but it’s just important to recognize that people want their blogs to be profitable businesses, then just thinking it isn’t enough. :)

  16. I remember Corbett saying in the comments thread of one of his epic posts ( yeah I know, that hardly narrows it down 😉 ) and he made a point that pretty much summarised the situation:
    ‘Until you have your own product to sell or your own service then your blog is not a business’
    These are my words as I cannot remember exactly what Corbett said but you get the point. I certainly did! I think that until you have something to offer the blog is nothing more than a distraction. If however you have that product/brand/service in place then the blog becomes the platform with which to promote and grow it – ie; A Business!

    Greate write up Danny, and its been great to watch you rise as quickly and professionally as you have.

    1. Heh, yeah, Corbett’s definitely got more than his fair share of epic stuff for us to enjoy, and that sentiment is definitely an important insight that a lot of people miss.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to comment, and your kind words – it means a lot coming from someone who’s had your caliber of success. :)

  17. Danny, you make some excellent points. All four steps are needed for any business. And just because someone opens shop, if they can’t convert people to customers then there really isn’t a business. I think your advice goes well beyond blogs and people can apply this to all sorts of businesses that are started and end up failing because in reality they were money sinks instead of actual businesses.

  18. very interesting and thought provoking post Danny. i know several bloggers who simply publish excellent content that entices and glues a reader to their readership base. thus the content becomes the product itself. sure, revenues don’t come from the readers, but advertisers recognize the caliber of both content and traffic and spend their advertising dollars on the blog. such blogs can also become exclusive on a membership basis (i.e. newspaper and mag subscriptions). that said, the product/service approach is definitely an effective one and as we can all see proven and time tested in terms of “conversion” as you mention in your post. what i specifically loved about your post is the universal/general message, which applies to most platforms if not all. provide something of value!

    1. Thank you, Sunil!

      That’s still a chain of conversion, you just have to recognize that what you’re basically doing in that situation is “productizing” your audience, and switching it so that your customers are really the advertisers. Same business mechanics apply, though. :)

      What do you think – does that make sense, or am I over-reaching? 😉

    1. Blogging for my electrical contracting site doesn’t generate the traffic as much as it does for my business coaching. Facebook really helps me build the relationships more than blogging

  19. Excellent write up Danny. Many online businesses have seen the rewards of blogging and these people who are true experts in business use blogs to share things about business but not make their blog their business. When you blog with a sense of competence and expertise, people would surely be interested. And if you know the secrets to successful blogging, your blog can easily attract new visitors and keep them interested enough to become regular customers, as well as active promoters.

    1. Agreed. I’ve seen many blogs ran by business owners and you can really tell how expert they are. I believe that’s coz they know what they’re doing and they do their goals with careful planning.

  20. What a great initiative Corbett (and Caleb)

    I have to say there are some cool ideas in the comments but also so many that I believe are already being done especially around travel on a budget and `personal development’ is just way too broad.

    Given that the 3 biggest and most profitable niches are:

    1. Health & Fitness
    2. Dating & Relationships
    3. Business & Money

    I’d really like to see a different twist on a dating and fitness site – like how to combine the two. Such as a dating site based around an activity that gets you outdoors so `ActiveDating.com’ – it speaks to two major growth areas but with a fun twist. You could then work fitness articles in to the mix, even cooking – oysters being an aphrodisiac and all….

  21. I loved your post and i really liked the way you broke up the chain of processes for one to make a profitable online business. Sometimes the obvious needs to be rewritten! I’m hoping to crack the code for my niche!

  22. Heh, once more than for letting people know that blogging as a business. others blog for different purpose like sharing with family, friends…With diverse objectives about blogging, many will say its fun!

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