I’ve met Brian D. Hawkins through the blogosphere by seeing him run in circles containing mutual friends. He runs HotBlogTips.com, which is designed to help bloggers from beginning to advanced levels succeed with their websites.
Brian has a wonderful reputation with other bloggers and, I’ve noticed that he has a genuine passion for helping other bloggers. He displays a lot of great knowledge on blogging, has great engagement with his readers, and so, I’ve asked him to do an interview for my Influential Blogger Series.
ME: What inspired you to start blogging, or why did you start blogging?
BRIAN: First, I’d like to thank Nile for considering me for part of her Influential Blogger Series, I’m truly flattered. I think it was back in 2006 when I converted a finance website I had to WordPress. The site was a couple years old by then and I had already started a Blogger blog on Internet Marketing, which eventually went to a self-hosted WordPress blog as well.
I loved the ease of maintaining a blog as opposed to editing an HTML file and uploading via FTP with every update. It wasn’t long before I came to understand that blogs were very well suited for the search engines because we updated more often since it was so much easier. Once the interaction kicked in, I was hooked and haven’t looked back since. I had several forums and a few membership sites at the time but blogging was what I really enjoyed.
ME: How did/do you go about promoting your own blog/ website?
BRIAN: Google forces our hands when it comes to promoting but, for the most part, it’s for the better. Today I use a mix of social media and interaction on other blogs but I honestly don’t spend a lot of time promoting my blog. I don’t bother with PPC or any real form of paid advertising. I do have a lot of relationships with other bloggers and some of those go back ten or more years. Those relationships are my best asset and I’m thankful to have so many online friends.
ME: Have you ever had some difficulty in the beginning when trying to reach a target audience? If so, how did you overcome that issue?
BRIAN: I’ve always had a pretty good grasp on who I was writing for but I do get asked that question a lot. I think one of the problems is the “make money blogging” and “blogging about blogging” niches get so much attention and interaction that other niches are drawn to it. It’s tough to bring in targeted traffic to a woodworking blog, for example, when they’re spending so much of their time on blogs about blogging.
My advice is to focus on the target market and seek out others in the same or similar niches. Comments and social sharing may be lower simply because there’s less understanding but the value can’t be beat when it comes to conversion.
Another common issue I see is broad ranged personal blogs. Many bloggers with personal blogs have a tough time branding themselves because their topics are all over the place. It’s probably more enjoyable but it has to hurt profits. It really comes down to what the blogger’s goals are and that should set the tone for their blog. With that said we’ve seen some pretty amazing personal blogs and it can be a fantastic way to brand ourselves and become very influential bloggers.
ME: You’re in the Blogs About Blogging niche. Did you have a blog prior to getting into this niche? What was it and why did you decide to get into the Blogs About Blogging niche?
BRIAN: I had several, like I mentioned above, my first was a finance blog. I had a couple related to internet marketing and I played the niche blog game for a while with a couple dozen of those. The niche blogs ranged from Nasolabial Folds to Government Appliance Rebates; wherever the keywords took me.
I actually started Hot Blog Tips because the domain seemed cool and was available for registration. I had over a hundred domains at the time and I started the blog just to flip it. I did sell it but ended up getting it back a little over a year later. I decided to make it a priority and now it’s here to stay.
ME: What has been the highlight point of your blog?
BRIAN: That’s tough to say, depending on how we measure it. Personally, when a post’s social shares hit triple digits and great interaction is high, I’m felling on top of the World. Commenting is down but I think quality is up. We’ve won a couple of awards and have been featured on many blogs but I have to say our readers are what really make my day.
ME: Can you share 1 or 2 tips on how to become a better blogger, at least from your own experience?
BRIAN: I was going through backups of old blogs and posts just yesterday and I’m amazed at just how bad it was. I was all over the map with pretty bad quality. I’d recommend bloggers spend their time writing epic content and don’t worry so much with what everyone (including me) is suggesting every day.
We tend to get wrapped up in stats and details when we should be trying to deliver the best information possible for our readers and subscribers. Forget about daily SEO changes, how long the optimal post is, what’s the best time to share on Facebook, etc. All of that is just a distraction from becoming the best resource and the most influential person in our niche. Those are my goals and that takes knowing our market and becoming the best resource for them.
ME: In your opinion, what is it that you believe a person must do in order to become influential amongst their niche?
BRIAN: Oops, I should have read this question before I got carried away on the last question but its back to being the best resource. It’s also putting your readers/subscribers/customers ahead of everything else, including profits. I’m very careful what I promote and that’s a must for long-term influence. Our reputation is the one thing we have complete control over and we need to protect it like our future depends on it – because it does.
Never promote something we haven’t tried ourselves and are willing to put our name and face on the product. Don’t promote junk because the ROI is high; promote a great product because it will really help others. Those people you help will continue to support you as long as you put them ahead of profit and always look out for them.
Treat people with respect and don’t “fake it until you make it”. If you don’t have traffic, don’t start writing on how to drive massive traffic. Don’t blog about making money online if you’re not making any yourself. Things like that hurt our reputation and get in the way of real success.
Brian is a 48 year old guy from Michigan He lives with his wife of 30 years. Brian got married early, at eighteen, and now have four grown children and four grandchildren so far. Brian drives a truck locally during the day and runs the Internet business at night and on the weekends.